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rving Commission, 

C565 55-07574 
archill Sift 
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THE WORLD CRISIS, 1916-319x8 


(The World Crisis, 1918-1938) 


(Lady Randolph Churchill) 


My Early Life 


C.H., M.P. 




Printed in the United States of America 



VARIOUS accounts having appeared from time to time of 
my early life and adventures, and I myself having pub 
lished thirty years ago stories of the several campaigns in 
which I took part, and having written later about particular 
episodes, I have thought it right to bring the whole together 
in a single complete story j and to tell the tale, such as it is, 
anew. I have therefore not only searched my memory, but 
have most carefully verified my facts from the records which 
I possess. I have tried, in each part of the quarter-century in 
which this tale lies, to show the point of view appropriate to 
-my years, whether as a child, a schoolboy, a cadet, a sub 
altern, a war-correspondent or a youthful politician. If these 
opinions conflict with those now generally accepted, they must 
be taken merely as representing a phase in my early life, and 
not in any respect, except where the context warrants, as 
modern pronouncements. 

When I survey this work as a whole I find I have drawn 
a picture of a vanished age. The character of society, the 
foundations of politics, the methods of war, the outlook of 
youth, the scale of values, are all changed, and changed to 
an extent I should not have believed possible in so short a 
space without any violent domestic revolution. I cannot pre 
tend to feel that they are in all respects changed for the 
better. I was a child of the Victorian era, when the structure 
of our country seemed firmly set, when its position in trade 
and on the seas was unrivalled, and when the realisation of 
the greatness of our Empire and of our duty to preserve it 
was ever growing stronger. In those days the dominant 
forces in Great Britain were very sure of themselves and of 
their doctrines. They thought they could teach the world 
the art of government, and the science of economics. They 
were sure they were supreme at sea and consequently safe at 



home. They rested therefore sedately under the convictions 
of power and security. Very different is the aspect of these 
anxious and dubious times. Full allowance for such changes 
should be made by friendly readers. 

I have thought that it might be of interest to the new 
generation to read a story of youthful endeavour, and I have 
set down candidly and with as much simplicity as possible 
my personal fortunes. 











VI. CUBA 74 



























INDEX 371 


Miss Jennie Jerome, Lady Randolph Churchill .... Frontispiece 
The Author, Aged Five facing page 8 

Lord Randolph Churchill, Aged Thirty-Six, Chancellor 
of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of 
Commons facing page 46 

A Gentleman-Cadet facing page 58 

In the Fourth Hussars facing page 64 

Map of Cuba page 87 

Sir Bindon Blood facing page 92 

Some Polo Ponies facing page 106 

Bangalore facing page 118 

Map Illustrating the Operations of the Malakand Force . . page 133 

Map of the Mamund Valley page 145 

Lady Randolph Churchill (drawn by Sargent) . . . facing page 152 

Colonel Sir Ian Hamilton facing page 158 

The Charge of the 2 ist Lancers facing page 192 

Map Omdurman: The First of September page 195 

The Armoured Train : The Start : The End . . . . facing page 244 

The Armoured Train (Diagram) page 251 

Pretoria, November 1 8 facing page 260 

Plan of the State Model Schools page 269 

'Dead or Alive' page 291 


Welcome at Durban faing page 296 

The South African Light Horse facing page 304 

Map Around Spion Kop page 317 

Map The Relief of Lady smith page 325 

Map In the Orange Free State page 342 

Map Bloemfontein to Pretoria page 345 

General Map Illustrating Mr. Churchill's Journey . . facing page 357, 
Member for Oldham facing page 358 





WHEN does one first begin to remember? Wtien do the 
waving lights and shadows of dawning consciousness 
cast their print upon the mind of a child? My earliest mem 
ories are Ireland. I can recall scenes and events in Ireland 
quite well, and sometimes dimly even, people. Yet I was 
born on November 30, 1874, and I left Ireland early in the 
year 1879. My father had gone to Ireland as secretary to 
his father, the Duke of Marlborough, appointed Lord-Lieu 
tenant by Mr. Disraeli in 1876. We lived in a house called 
*The Little Lodge/ about a stone's throw from the Vice 
regal. Here I spent nearly three years of childhood. I 
have clear and vivid impressions of some events. I remem 
ber my grandfather, the Viceroy, unveiling the Lord Gough 
statue in 1878. A great black crowd, scarlet soldiers on horse 
back, strings pulling away a brown shiny sheet, the old 
Duke, the formidable grandpapa, talking loudly to the 
crowd. I recall even a phrase he used: 'and with a wither 
ing volley he shattered the enemy's line.' I quite under 
stood that he was speaking about war and fighting and that 
a Volley' meant what the black-coated soldiers (Riflemen) 
used to do with loud bangs so often in the Phoenix Park 
where I was taken for my morning walks. This, I think, is 
my first coherent memory. 

Other events stand out more distinctly. We were to go to 
a pantomime. There was great excitement about it. The long- 
looked-for afternoon arrived. We started from the Vice 
regal and drove to the Castle where other children were no 
doubt to be picked up. Inside the Castle was a great square 


space paved with small oblong stones. It rained. It nearly 
always rained just as it does now. People came out of 
the doors of the Castle, and there seemed to be much stir. 
Then we were told we could not go to the pantomime be 
cause the theatre had been burned down. All that was found 
of the manager was the keys that had been in his pocket. 
We were promised as a consolation for not going to the 
pantomime to go next day and see the ruins of the building. 
I wanted very much to see the keys, but this request does 
not seem to have been well received. 

In one of these years we paid a visit to Emo Park, the 
seat of Lord Portarlington, who was explained to me as a 
sort of uncle. Of this place I can give very clear descrip 
tions, though I have never been there since I was four or 
four and a half. The central point in my memory is a tall 
white stone tower which we reached after a considerable 
drive. I was told it had been blown up by Oliver Cromwell. 
I understood definitely that he had blown up all sorts of 
things and was therefore a very great man. 

My nurse, Mrs. Everest, was nervous about the Fenians. 
I gathered these were wicked people and there was no end 
to what they would do if they had their way. On one occa 
sion when I was out riding on my donkey, we thought we 
saw a long dark procession of Fenians approaching. I am 
sure now it must have been the Rifle Brigade out for a route 
march. But we were all very much alarmed, particularly the 
donkey, who expressed his anxiety by kicking. I was thrown 
off and had concussion of the brain. This was my first intro 
duction to Irish politics! 

In the Phoenix Park there was a great round clump of 
trees with a house inside it. In this house there lived a per 
sonage styled the Chief Secretary or the Under Secretary, 
I am not clear which. But at any rate from this house there 
came a man called Mr. Burke. He gave me a drum. I can 
not remember what he looked like, but I remember the 
drum. Two years afterwards when we were back in Eng- 



land, they told me he had been murdered by the Fenians in 
this same Phoenix Park we used to walk about in every day. 
Everyone round me seemed much upset about it, and I 
thought how lucky it was the Fenians had not got me when 
I fell off the donkey. 

It was at 'The Little Lodge' I was first menaced with 
Education. The approach of a sinister figure described as 
''the Governess 5 was announced. Her arrival was fixed for a 
certain day. In order to prepare for this day Mrs. Everest 
produced a book called Reading without Tears. It certainly 
did not justify its title in my case. I was made aware that 
before the Governess arrived I must be able to read with 
out tears. We toiled each day. My nurse pointed with a pen 
at the different letters. I thought it all very tiresome. Our 
preparations were by no means completed when the fateful 
hour struck and the Governess was due to arrive. I did what 
so many oppressed peoples have done in similar circum 
stances: I took to the woods. I hid in the extensive shrub 
beries forests they seemed which surrounded 'The Lit 
tle Lodge.' Hours passed before I was retrieved and handed 
over to 'the Governess,' We continued to toil every day, not 
only at letters but at words, and also at what was much 
worse, figures. Letters after all had only got to be known, 
and when they stood together in a certain way one recog 
nised their formation and that it meant a certain sound or 
word which one uttered when pressed sufficiently. But the 
figures were tied into all sorts of tangles and did things to 
one another which it was extremely difficult to forecast with 
complete accuracy. You had to say what they did each time 
they were tied up together, and the Governess apparently 
attached enormous importance to the answer being exact. If 
it was not right, it was wrong. It was not any use being 
'nearly right.' In some cases these figures got into debt with 
one another: you had to borrow one or carry one, and, after 
wards you had to pay back the one you had borrowed. These 
complications cast a steadily gathering shadow over my daily 



life. They took one away from all the interesting things one 
wanted to do in the nursery or in the garden. They made 
increasing inroads upon one's leisure. One could hardly get 
time to do any of the things one wanted to do. They became 
a general worry and preoccupation. More especially was this 
true when we descended into a dismal bog called 'sums.' 
There appeared to be no limit to these. When one sum was 
done, there was always another. Just as soon as I managed 
to tackle a particular class of these afflictions, some other 
much more variegated type was thrust upon me. 

My mother took no part in these impositions, but she gave 
me to understand that she approved of them and she sided 
with the Governess almost always. My picture of her in 
Ireland is in a riding habit, fitting like a skin and often 
beautifully spotted with mud. She and my father hunted 
continually on their large horses; and sometimes there were 
great scares because one or the other did not come back for 
many hours after they were expected. 

My mother always seemed to me a fairy princess: a ra 
diant being possessed of limitless riches and power. Lord 
D'Abernon has described her as she was in these Irish days 
in words for which I am grateful. 

. . . C I have the clearest recollection of seeing her for 
the first time. It was at the Vice-Regal Lodge at Dublin. She 
stood on one side to the left of the entrance. The Viceroy 
was on a dais at the farther end of the room surrounded by 
a brilliant staff, but eyes were not turned on him or on his 
consort, but on a dark, lithe figure, standing somewhat apart 
and appearing to be of another texture to those around her, 
radiant, translucent, intense. A diamond star in her hair, her 
favourite ornament its lustre dimmed by the flashing glory 
of her eyes. More of the panther than of the woman in 
her look, but with a cultivated intelligence unknown to the 
jungle. Her courage not less great than that of her husband 
fit mother for descendants of the great Duke. With all 


these attributes of brilliancy, such kindliness and high spirits 
that she was universally popular. Her desire to please, her 
delight in life, and the genuine wish that all should share 
her joyous faith in it, made her the centre of a devoted 

My mother made the same brilliant impression upon my 
childhood's eye. She shone for me like the Evening Star. I 
loved her dearly but at a distance. My nurse was my con 
fidante. Mrs. Everest it was who looked after me and tended 
all my wants. It was to her I poured out my many troubles, 
both now and in my schooldays. Before she came to us, she 
had brought up for twelve years a little girl called Ella, 
the daughter of a clergyman who lived in Cumberland. 
'Little Ella/ though I never saw her, became a feature in 
my early life. I knew all about herj what she liked to eatj 
how she used to say her prayers 3 in what ways she was 
naughty and in what ways good. I had a vivid picture in my 
mind of her home in the North country. I was also taught 
to be very fond of Kent. It was, Mrs. Everest said, 'the 
garden of England.' She had been born at Chatham, and 
was immensely proud of Kent. No county could compare 
with Kent, any more than any other country could compare 
with England. Ireland, for instance, was nothing like so 
good. As for France, Mrs. Everest who had at one time 
wheeled me in my perambulator up and down what she 
called the 'Shams Elizzie' thought very little of it. Kent 
was the place. Its capital was Maidstone, and all round 
Maidstone there grew strawberries, cherries, raspberries and 
plums. Lovely! I always wanted to live in Kent. 

I revisited 'The Little Lodge' when lecturing on the 
Boer War in Dublin in the winter of 1900. I remembered 
well that it was a long low white building with green shut 
ters and verandahs, and that there was a lawn around it 
about as big as Trafalgar Square and entirely surrounded by 
forests. I thought it must have been at least a mile from 



the Viceregal. When I saw it again, I was astonished to find 
that the lawn was only about sixty yards across, that the 
forests were little more than bushes, and that it only took 
a minute to ride to it from the Viceregal where I was 

My next foothold of memory is Ventnor. I loved Vent- 
nor. Mrs. Everest had a sister who lived at Ventnor. Her 
husband had been nearly thirty years a prison warder. Both 
then and in later years he used to take me for long walks 
over the Downs or through the Landslip. He told me many 
stories of mutinies in the prisons and how he had been at 
tacked and injured on several occasions by the convicts. 
When I first stayed at Ventnor we were fighting a war with 
the Zulus. There were pictures in the papers of these Zulus. 
They were black and naked, with spears called 'assegais* 
which they threw very cleverly. They killed a great many 
of our soldiers, but judging from the pictures, not nearly so 
many as our soldiers killed of them. I was very angry with 
the Zulus, and glad to hear they were being killed j and 
so was my friend, the old prison warder. After a while it 
seemed that they were all killed, because this particular war 
came to an end and there were no more pictures of Zulus 
in the papers and nobody worried any more about them. 

One day when we were out on the cliffs near Ventnor, we 
saw a great splendid ship with all her sails set, passing the 
shore only a mile or two away. c That is a troopship,' they 
said, 'bringing the men back from the war.' But it may have 
been from India, I cannot remember. 1 Then all of a sudden 
there were black clouds and wind and the first drops of a 
storm, and we just scrambled home without getting wet 
through. The next time I went out on those cliffs there was 
no splendid ship in full sail, but three black masts were 
pointed out to me, sticking up out of the water in a stark 
way. She was the Ewrydice? She had capsized in this very 

*In fact she was a training ship. 
2 Pronounced by us in two syllables. 



squall and gone to the bottom with three hundred soldiers 
on board. The divers went down to bring up the corpses. I 
was told and it made a scar on my mind that some of 
the divers had fainted with terror at seeing the fish eating 
the bodies of the poor soldiers who had been drowned just 
as they were coming bafck home after all their hard work 
and danger in fighting savages. I seem to have seen some 
of these corpses towed very slowly by boats one sunny day. 
There were many people on the cliffs to watch, and we all 
took off our hats in sorrow. 

Just about this time also there happened the *Tay Bridge 
Disaster.' A whole bridge tumbled down while a train was 
running on it in a great storm, and all the passengers were 
drowned. I supposed they could not get out of the car 
riage windows in time. It would be very hard to open one 
of those windows where you have to pull up a long strap be 
fore you can let it down. No wonder they were all drowned. 
All my world was very angry that the Government should 
have allowed a bridge like this to tumble down. It seemed 
to me they had been very careless, and I did not wonder at 
all that the people said they would vote against them for 
being so lazy and neglectful as to let such a shocking thing 

In 1880 we were all thrown out of office by Mr. Glad 
stone. Mr. Gladstone was a very dangerous man who went 
about rousing people up, lashing them into fury so that 
they voted against the Conservatives and turned my grand 
father out of his place as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He 
liked this place much less than his old office of Lord Presi 
dent of the Council, which he had held in Lord Beacons- 
field's previous government. When he was Lord-Lieutenant 
he had to spend all his money on giving entertainments 
to the Irish in Dublin} and my grandmother had also got up 
a great subscription called 'The Famine Fund/ However, 
it was borne in upon me that the Irish were a very ungrate 
ful people: they did not say so much as 'Thank you' for the 


entertainments, nor even for 'The Famine Fund.* The Duke 
would much rather have stayed in England where he could 
live in his own home at Blenheim and regularly attend the 
Cabinet. But he always did whatever Lord Beaconsfield told 
him to do. Lord Beaconsfield was the great enemy of Mr. 
Gladstone, and everybody called him 'Dizzy.' However, 
this time 'Dizzy' had been thoroughly beaten by Mr. Glad 
stone, so we were all flung out into Opposition and the coun 
try began to be ruined very rapidly. Everyone said it was 
'going to the dogs.' And then on top of all this Lord Bea 
consfield got very ill. He had a long illness j and as he was 
also very old, it killed him. I followed his illness from day 
to day with great anxiety, because everyone said what a 
loss he would be to his country and how no one else could 
stop Mr. Gladstone from working his wicked will upon us 
all. I was always sure Lord Beaconsfield was going to die, 
and at last the day came when all the people I saw went 
about with very sad faces because, as they said, a great and 
splendid Statesman, who loved our country and defied the 
Russians, had died of a broken heart because of the ingrati 
tude with which he had been treated by the Radicals. 

I have already described the dreaded apparition in my 
world of 'The Governess.' But now a much worse peril be 
gan to threaten. I was to go to school. I was now seven 
years old, and I was what grown-up people in their offhand 
way called 'a troublesome boy.' It appeared that I was to 
go away from home for many weeks at a stretch in order 
to do lessons under masters. The term had already begun, 
but still I should have to stay seven weeks before I could 
come home for Christmas. Although much that I had heard 
about school had made a distinctly disagreeable impression 
on my mind, an impression, I may add, thoroughly borne 
out by the actual experience, I was also excited and agitated 
by this great change in my life. I thought in spite of the 
lessons, it would be fun living with so many other boys, and 
that we should make friends together and have great ad- 




ventures. Also I was told that c school days were the hap 
piest time in one's life.' Several grown-up people added that 
in their day, when they were young, schools were very 
rough: there was bullying, they didn't get enough to eat, 
they had 'to break the ice in their pitchers' each morning 
(a thing I have never seen done in my life). But now it was 
all changed. School life nowadays was one long treat. All 
the boys enjoyed it. Some of my cousins who were a little 
older had been quite sorry I was told to come home for 
the holidays. Cross-examined the cousins did not confirm 
this} they only grinned. Anyhow I was perfectly helpless. 
Irresistible tides drew me swiftly forward. I was no more 
consulted about leaving home than I had been about com 
ing into the world. 

It was very interesting buying all the things one had to 
have for going to school. No less than fourteen pairs of socks 
were on the list. Mrs. Everest thought this was very ex 
travagant. She said that with care ten pairs would do quite 
well. Still it was a good thing to have some to spare, as one 
could then make sure of avoiding the very great dangers 
inseparable from 'sitting in wet feet.' 

The fateful day arrived. My mother took me to the sta 
tion in a hansom cab. She gave me three half-crowns which 
I dropped on to the floor of the cab, and we had to scramble 
about in the straw to find them again. We only just caught 
the train. If we had missed it, it would have been the end of 
the world. However, we didn't, and the world went on. 

The school my parents had selected for my education was 
one of the most fashionable and expensive in the country. 
It modelled itself upon Eton and aimed at being preparatory 
for that Public School above all others. It was supposed to 
be the very last thing in schools. Only ten boys in a class j 
electric light (then a wonder) - y a swimming pond 5 spacious 
football and cricket grounds 5 two or three school treats, or 
'expeditions' as they were called, every term 5 the masters 
all M.A.'s in gowns and mortar-boards j a chapel of its ownj 



no hampers allowed 5 everything provided by the authori 
ties. It was a dark November afternoon when we arrived at 
this establishment. We had tea with the Headmaster, with 
whom my mother conversed in the most easy manner. I was 
preoccupied with the fear of spilling my cup and so making 
'a bad start.' I was also miserable at the idea of being left 
alone among all these strangers in this great, fierce, formi 
dable place. After all I was only seven, and I had been so 
happy in my nursery with all my toys. I had such wonderful 
toys: a real steam engine, a magic lantern, and a collection 
of soldiers already nearly a thousand strong. Now it was to 
be all lessons. Seven or eight hours of lessons every day 
except half-holidays, and football or cricket in addition. 

When the last sound of my mother's departing wheels had 
died away, the Headmaster invited me to hand over any 
money I had in my possession. I produced my three half- 
crowns which were duly entered in a book, and I was told 
that from time to time there would be a 'shop' at the school 
with all sorts of things which one would like to have, and 
that I could choose what I liked up to the limit of the seven 
and sixpence. Then we quitted the Headmaster's parlour 
and the comfortable private side of the house, and entered 
the more bleak apartments reserved for the instruction and 
accommodation of the pupils. I was taken into a Form Room 
and told to sit at a desk. All the other boys were out of doors, 
and I was alone with the Form Master. He produced a thin 
greeny-brown-covered book filled with words in different 
types of print. 

'You have never done any Latin before, have you?' he 

<No, sir.' 

'This is a Latin grammar.' He opened it at a well-thumbed 
page. 'You must learn this,' he said, pointing to a number of 
words in a frame of lines. 'I will come back in half an hour 
and see what you know.' 

Behold me then on a gloomy evening, with an aching 
heart, seated in front of the First Declension. 









a table 

O table 

a table 

of a table 

to or for a table 

by, with or from a table 

What on earth did it mean? Where was the sense of it? 
It seemed absolute rigmarole to me. However, there was one 
thing I could always do: I could learn by heart. And I there 
upon proceeded, as far as my private sorrows would allow, 
to memorise the acrostic-looking task which had been set me* 
In due course the Master returned. 
'Have you learnt it?' he asked. 

'I think I can say it, sir,' I replied; and I gabbled it off. 
He seemed so satisfied with this that I was emboldened 
to ask a question. 

'What does it mean, sir?' 

'It means what it says. Mensa, a table. Mensa is a noun 
of the First Declension. There are five declensions. You have 
learnt the singular of the First Declension.' 
'But,' I repeated, 'what does it mean?' 
'Mensa means a table,' he answered. 
'Then why does mensa also mean O table,' I enquired, 
'and what does O table mean?' 
'Mensa, O table, is the vocative case,' he replied. 
'But why O table?' I persisted in genuine curiosity. 
'O table, you would use that in addressing a table, in 
invoking a table.' And then seeing he was not carrying me 
with him, 'You would use it in speaking to a table.' 
'But I never do,' I blurted out in honest amazement. 
'If you are impertinent, you will be punished, and pun 
ished, let me tell you, very severely,' was his conclusive 

Such was my first introduction to the classics from which, 



I have been told, many of our cleverest men have derived 
so much solace and profit. 

The Form Master's observations about punishment were 
by no means without their warrant at St. James's School. 
Flogging with the birch in accordance with the Eton fashion 
was a great feature in its curriculum. But I am sure no Eton 
boy, and certainly no Harrow boy of my day, ever received 
such a cruel flogging as this Headmaster was accustomed 
to inflict upon the little boys who were in his care and power. 
They exceeded in severity anything that would be tolerated 
In any of the Reformatories under the Home Office. My 
reading in later life has supplied me with some possible 
explanations of his temperament. Two or three times a month 
the whole school was marshalled in the Library, and one or 
more delinquents were haled off to an adjoining apartment 
by the two head boys, and there flogged until they bled 
freely, while the rest sat quaking, listening to their screams. 
This form of correction was strongly reinforced by frequent 
religious services of a somewhat High Church character in 
the chapel. Mrs. Everest was very much against the Pope. If 
the truth were known, she said, he was behind the Fenians. 
She was herself Low Church, and her dislike of ornaments 
and ritual, and generally her extremely unfavourable opin 
ion of the Supreme Pontiff, had prejudiced me strongly 
against that personage and all religious practices supposed to 
be associated with him. I therefore did not derive much com 
fort from the spiritual side of my education at this juncture. 
On the other hand, I experienced the fullest applications of 
the secular arm. 

How I hated this school, and what a life of anxiety I lived 
there for more than two years. I made very little progress 
at my lessons, and none at all at games. I counted the days 
and the hours to the end of every term, when I should return 
home from this hateful servitude aftd range my soldiers in 
line of battle on the nursery floor. The greatest pleasure 
I had in those days was reading. When I was nine and a half 



my father gave me Treasure Island, and I remember the 
delight with which I devoured it. My teachers saw me at 
once backward and precocious, reading books beyond my 
years and yet at the bottom of the Form. They were 
offended. They had large resources of compulsion at their 
disposal, but I was stubborn. Where my reason, imagina 
tion or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could 
not learn. In all the twelve years I was at school no one 
ever succeeded in making me write a Latin verse or learn 
any Greek except the alphabet. I do not at all excuse my 
self for this foolish neglect of opportunities procured at so 
much expense by my parents and brought so forcibly to my 
attention by my Preceptors. Perhaps if I had been introduced 
to the ancients through their history and customs, instead of 
through their grammar and syntax, I might have had a bet 
ter record. 

I fell into a low state of health at St. James's School, and 
finally after a serious illness my parents took me away. Our 
family doctor, the celebrated Robson Roose, then practised 
at Brighton; and as I was now supposed to be very delicate, 
it was thought desirable that I should be under his constant 
care. I was accordingly, in 1883, transferred to a school 
at Brighton kept by two ladies. This was a smaller school 
than the one I had left. It was also cheaper and less pre 
tentious. But there was an element of kindness and of sym 
pathy which I had found conspicuously lacking in my first 
experiences. Here I remained for three years; and though 
I very nearly died from an attack of double pneumonia, I 
got gradually much stronger in that bracing air and gentle 
surroundings. At this school I was allowed to learn things 
which interested me: French, History, lots of Poetry by 
heart, and above all Riding and Swimming. The impression 
of those years makes a pleasant picture in my mind, in 
strong contrast to my earlier schoolday memories. 

My partiality for Low Church principles which I had 
acquired from Mrs. Everest led me into one embarrassment 



We often attended the service in the Chapel Royal at 
Brighton. Here the school was accommodated in pews which 
ran North and South. In consequence, when the Apostles' 
Creed was recited, everyone turned to the East. I was sure 
Mrs. Everest would have considered this practice Popish, 
and I conceived it my duty to testify against it. I therefore 
stood stolidly to my front. I was conscious of having created 
a 'sensation.' I prepared myself for martyrdom. However, 
when we got home no comment of any kind was made upon 
my behaviour. I was almost disappointed, and looked for 
ward to the next occasion for a further demonstration of my 
faith. But when it came, the school was shown into different 
pews in the Chapel Royal facing East, and no action was 
called for from any one of us when the Creed was said. I was 
puzzled to find my true course and duty. It seemed excessive 
to turn away from the East. Indeed I could not feel that such 
a step would be justified. I therefore became willy-nilly a 
passive conformist. 

It was thoughtful and ingenious of these old ladies to 
have treated my scruples so tenderly. The results repaid 
their care. Never again have I caused or felt trouble on 
such a point. Not being resisted or ill-treated, I yielded 
myself complacently to a broad-minded tolerance and 


I HAD scarcely passed my twelfth birthday when I entered 
the inhospitable regions of examinations, through which 
for the next seven years I was destined to journey. These 
examinations were a great trial to me. The subjects which 
were dearest to the examiners were almost invariably those 
I fancied least. I would have liked to have been examined 
in history, poetry and writing essays. The examiners, on 
the other hand, were partial to Latin and mathematics* 
And their will prevailed. Moreover, the questions which 
they asked on both these subjects were almost invariably 
those to which I was unable to suggest a satisfactory answer. 
I should have liked to be asked to say what I knew. They 
always tried to ask what I did not know. When I would 
have willingly displayed my knowledge, they sought to ex 
pose my ignorance. This sort of treatment had only one 
result: I did not do well in examinations. 

This was especially true of my Entrance Examination to 
Harrow. The Headmaster, Dr. Welldon, however, took 
a broad-minded view of my Latin prose: he showed discern 
ment in judging my general ability. This was the more re 
markable, because I was found unable to answer a single 
question in the Latin paper. I wrote my name at the top 
of the page. I wrote down the number of the question C P. 
After much reflection I put a bracket round it thus C (I) J . But 
thereafter I could not think of anything connected with it 
that was either relevant or true. Incidentally there arrived 
from nowhere in particular a blot and several smudges. 
I gazed for two whole hours at this sad spectacle: and then 
merciful ushers collected my piece of foolscap with all the 
others and carried it up to the Headmaster's table. It was 



from these slender indications of scholarship that Dr. Well- 
don drew the conclusion that I was worthy to pass into 
Harrow. It is very much to his credit. It showed that he was 
a man capable of looking beneath the surface of things: a 
man not dependent upon paper manifestations. I have always 
had the greatest regard for him. 

In consequence of his decision, I was in due course placed 
in the third, or lowest, division of the Fourth, or bottom, 
Form. The names of the new boys were printed in the 
School List in alphabetical order j and as my correct name, 
Spencer-Churchill, began with an C S,' I gained no more ad 
vantage from the alphabet than from the wider sphere of 
letters. I was in fact only two from the bottom of the whole 
school 5 and these two, I regret to say, disappeared almost 
immediately through illness or some other cause. 

The Harrow custom of calling the roll is different from 
that of Eton. At Eton the boys stand in a cluster and lift 
their hats when their names are called. At Harrow they 
file past a Master in the school yard and answer one by one. 
My position was therefore revealed in its somewhat invidi 
ous humility. It was the year 1887. Lord Randolph Church 
ill had only just resigned his position as Leader of the House 
of Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he still 
towered in the forefront of politics. In consequence large 
numbers of visitors of both sexes used to wait on the school 
steps, in order to see me march by; and I frequently heard 
the irreverent comment, c Why, he's last of all!' 

I continued in this unpretentious situation for nearly a 
year. However; by being so long in the lowest form I gained 
an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went 
on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that, 
But I was taught English, We were considered such dunces 
that we could learn only English. Mr. Somervell a most 
delightful man, to whom my debt is great was charged 
with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most dis 
regarded thing namely, to write mere English* He knew 



how to do it. He taught it as no one else has ever taught it. 
Not only did we learn English parsing thoroughly, but we 
also practised continually English analysis. Mr. Somervell 
had a system of his own. He took a fairly long sentence and 
broke it up into its components by means of black, red, blue 
and green inks. Subject, verb, object: Relative Clauses, Con 
ditional Clauses, Conjunctive and Disjunctive Clauses! Each 
had its colour and its bracket. It was a kind of drill. We did it 
almost daily. As I remained in the Third Fourth (/3) three 
times as long as anyone else, I had three times as much of it. 
I learned it thoroughly. Thus I got into my bones the essen 
tial structure of the ordinary British sentence which is a 
noble thing. And when in after years my schoolfellows who 
had won prizes and distinction for writing such beautiful 
Latin poetry and pithy Greek epigrams had to come down 
again to common English, to earn their living or make their 
way, I did not feel myself at any disadvantage. Naturally I 
am biassed in favour of boys learning English. I would make 
them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones 
learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only 
thing I would whip them for would be for not knowing 
English. I would whip them hard for that. 

I first went to Harrow in the summer term. The school 
possessed the biggest swimming-bath I had ever seen. It was 
more like the bend of a river than a bath, and it had two 
bridges across it. Thither we used to repair for hours at a 
time and bask between our dips eating enormous buns on the 
hot asphalt margin. Naturally it was a good joke to come 
up behind some naked friend, or even enemy, and push him 
in. I made quite a habit of this with boys of my own size or 
less. One day when I had been no more than a month in the 
school, I saw a boy standing in a meditative posture wrapped 
in a towel on the very brink. He was no bigger than I was, 
so I thought him fair game. Coming stealthily behind I 
pushed him in, holding on to his towel out of humanity, so 
that it should not get wet. I was startled to see a furious face 



emerge from the foam, and a being evidently of enormous 
strength making its way by fierce strokes to the shore. I fled, 
but in vain. Swift as the wind my pursuer overtook me, 
seized me in a ferocious grip and hurled me into the deepest 
part of the pool. I soon scrambled out on the other side, and 
found myself surrounded by an agitated crowd of younger 
boys. 'You're in for it,' they said. 'Do you know what you 
have done? It's Amery, he's in the Sixth Form. He is Head 
of his House; he is champion at Gym; he has got his football 
colours.' They continued to recount his many titles to fame 
and reverence and to dilate upon the awful retribution that 
would fall upon me. I was convulsed not only with terror, 
but with the guilt of sacrilege. How could I tell his rank 
when he was in a bath-towel and so small? I determined to 
apologise immediately. I approached the potentate in lively 
trepidation. c l am very sorry,' I said. C I mistook you for a 
Fourth Form boy. You are so small.' He did not seem at all 
placated by this; so I added in a most brilliant recovery, *My 
father, who is a great man, is also small.' At this he laughed, 
and after some general remarks about my c cheek' and how I 
had better be careful in the future, signified that the inci 
dent was closed. 

I have been fortunate to see a good deal more of him, in 
times when three years' difference in age is not so important 
as it is at school. We were afterwards to be Cabinet col 
leagues for a good many years. 

It was thought incongruous that while I apparently stag 
nated in the lowest form, I should gain a prize open to the 
whole school for reciting to the Headmaster twelve hundred 
lines of Macaulay's 'Lays of Ancient Rome' without making 
a single mistake. I also succeeded in passing the preliminary 
examination for the Army while still almost at the bottom of 
the school. This examination seemed to have called forth 
a very special effort on my part, for many boys far above me 
in the school failed in it. I also had a piece of good luck. We 
knew that among other questions we should be asked to draw 



from memory a map of some country or other. The night 
before by way of final preparation I put the names of all the 
maps in the atlas into a hat and drew out New Zealand. I ap 
plied my good memory to the geography of that Dominion. 
Sure enough the first question in the paper was: 'Draw a map 
of New Zealand. 5 This was what is called at Monte Carlo an 
en 'plein, and I ought to have been paid thirty-five times my 
stake. However, I certainly got paid very high marks for 
my paper. 

I was now embarked on a military career. This orienta 
tion was entirely due to my collection of soldiers. I had 
ultimately nearly fifteen hundred. They were all of one 
size, all British, and organised as an infantry division with a 
cavalry brigade. My brother Jack commanded the hostile 
army. But by a Treaty for the Limitation of Armaments 
he was only allowed to have coloured troops, and they were 
not allowed to have artillery. Very important! I could 
muster myself only eighteen field-guns besides fortress 
pieces. But all the other services were complete except one. 
It is what every army is always short of transport. My fa 
ther's old friend, Sir Henry Drummond WolflF, admiring 
my array, noticed this deficiency and provided a fund from 
which it was to some extent supplied. 

The day came when my father himself paid a formal visit 
of inspection. All the troops were arranged in the correct 
formation of attack. He spent twenty minutes studying the 
scene which was really impressive with a keen eye and 
captivating smile. At the end he asked me if I would like 
to go into the Army. I thought it would be splendid to com 
mand an Army, so I said 'Yes 5 at once: and immediately I 
was taken at my word. For years I thought my father with 
his experience and flair had discerned in me the qualities of 
military genius. But I was told later that he had only come 
to the conclusion that I was not clever enough to go to the 
Bar. However that may be, the toy soldiers turned the cur 
rent of my life. Henceforward all my education was directed 


to passing into Sandhurst, and afterwards to the technical 
details of the profession of arms. Anything else I had to pick 
up for myself. 

I spent nearly four and a half years at Harrow, of which 
three were in the Army class. To this I was admitted in con 
sequence of having passed the preliminary examination. It 
consisted of boys of the middle and higher forms of the 
school and of very different ages, all of whom were being 
prepared either for the Sandhurst or the Woolwich exami 
nation. We were withdrawn from the ordinary movement 
of the school from form to form. In consequence I got no 
promotion or very little and remained quite low down upon 
the school list, though working alongside of boys nearly all 
in the Fifth Form. Officially I never got out of the Lower 
School, so I never had the privilege of having a fag of my 
own. When in the passage of time I became what was called 
c a three-yearer' I ceased to have to fag myself, and as I was 
older than other boys of my standing, I was appointed in my 
House to the position of Head of the Fags. This was my 
first responsible office, and the duties, which were honorary, 
consisted in keeping the roster of all the fags, making out 
the lists of their duties and dates and placing copies of these 
lists in the rooms of the monitors, football and cricket cham 
pions and other members of our aristocracy. I discharged 
these functions for upwards of a year, and on the whole I 
was resigned to my lot. 

Meanwhile I found an admirable method of learning my 
Latin translations. I was always very slow at using a dic 
tionary: it was just like using a telephone directory. It is 
easy to open it more or less at the right letter, but then you 
have to turn backwards and forwards and peer up and down 
the columns and very often find yourself three or four pages 
the wrong side of the word you want. In short I found it 
most laborious, while to other boys it seemed no trouble. 



But now I formed an alliance with a boy in the Sixth Form. 
He was very clever and could read Latin as easily as Eng 
lish. Caesar, Ovid, Virgil, Horace and even MartiaPs epi 
grams were all the same to him. My daily task was perhaps 
ten or fifteen lines. This would ordinarily have taken me an 
hour or an hour and a half to decipher, and then it would 
probably have been wrong. But my friend could in five min 
utes construe it for me word by word, and once I had seen 
it exposed, I remembered it firmly. My Sixth-Form friend 
for his part was almost as much troubled by the English 
essays he had to write for the Headmaster as I was by these 
Latin cross-word puzzles. We agreed together that he should 
tell me my Latin translations and that I should do his essays. 
The arrangement worked admirably. The Latin master 
seemed quite satisfied with my work, and I had more time 
to myself in the mornings. On the other hand once a week 
or so I had to compose the essays of my Sixth-Form friend. 
I used to walk up and down the room dictating just as 
I do now and he sat in the corner and wrote it down in 
long-hand. For several months no difficulty arose $ but once 
we were nearly caught out. One of these essays was thought 
to have merit. It Was c sent up' to the Headmaster who sum 
moned my friend, commended him on his work and pro 
ceeded to discuss the topic with him in a lively spirit. C I was 
interested in this point you make here. You might I think 
have gone even further. Tell me exactly what you had in 
your mind.' Dr. Welldon in spite of very chilling responses 
continued in this way for some time to the deep consterna 
tion of my confederate. However the Headmaster, not wish 
ing to turn an occasion of praise into one of cavilling, finally 
let him go with the remark c You seem to be better at writ 
ten than at oral work.' He came back to me like a man who 
has had a very narrow squeak, and I was most careful ever 
afterwards to keep to the beaten track in essay-writing. 

Dr. Welldon took a friendly interest in me, and knowing 
that I was weak in the Classics, determined to help me 



himself. His daily routine was heavy; but he added three 
times a week a quarter of an hour before evening prayers 
in which to give me personal tuition. This was a great con 
descension for the Headmaster, who of course never taught 
anyone but the monitors and the highest scholars. I was 
proud of the honour: I shrank from the ordeal. If the reader 
has ever learned any Latin prose he will know that at quite 
an early stage one comes across the Ablative Absolute with 
its apparently somewhat despised alternative *Quum with 
the pluperfect subjunctive.' I always preferred c Quum.' 
True he was a little longer to write, thus lacking the much 
admired terseness and pith of the Latin language. On the 
other hand he avoided a number of pitfalls. I was often 
uncertain whether the Ablative Absolute should end in V 
or V or V or 'is 7 or c ibus, ? to the correct selection of which 
great importance was attached. Dr. Welldon seemed to be 
physically pained by a mistake being made in any of these 
letters. I remember that later on Mr. Asquith used to have 
just the same sort of look on his face when I sometimes 
adorned a Cabinet discussion by bringing out one of my 
few but faithful Latin quotations. It was more than an 
noyance, it was a pang. Moreover Headmasters have powers 
at their disposal with which Prime Ministers have never yet 
been invested. So these evening quarters of an hour with 
Dr. Welldon added considerably to the anxieties of my 
life. I was much relieved when after nearly a whole term 
of patient endeavour he desisted from his well-meant but 
unavailing efforts. 

I will here make some general observations about Latin 
which probably have their application to Greek as well. In 
a sensible language like English important words are con 
nected and related to one another by other little words. The 
Romans in that stern antiquity considered such a method 
weak and unworthy. Nothing would satisfy them but that 
the structure of every word should be reacted on. by its 
neighbours in accordance with elaborate rules to meet the 



different conditions in which it might be used. There is no 
doubt that this method both sounds and looks more impres 
sive than our own. The sentence fits together like a piece 
of polished machinery. Every phrase can be tensely charged 
with meaning. It must have been very laborious, even if 
you were brought up to it j but no doubt it gave the Romans, 
and the Greeks too, a fine and easy way of establishing their 
posthumous fame. They were the first comers in the fields 
of thought and literature. When they arrived at fairly ob 
vious reflections upon life and love, upon war, fate or man 
ners, they coined them into the slogans or epigrams for 
which their language was so well adapted, and thus pre 
served the patent rights for all time. Hence their reputation. 
Nobody ever told me this at school. I have thought it all 
out in later life. 

But even as a schoolboy I questioned the aptness of the 
Classics for the prime structure of our education. So they 
told me how Mr. Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I 
thought served him right , and that it would be a great 
pleasure to me in after life. When I seemed incredulous, 
they added that classics would be a help in writing or speak 
ing English. They then pointed out the number of our mod 
ern words which are derived from the Latin or Greek. Ap 
parently one could use these words much better, if one knew 
the exact source from which they had sprung. I was fain to 
admit a practical value. But now even this has been swept 
away. The foreigners and the Scotch have joined together 
to introduce a pronunciation of Latin which divorces it finally 
from the English tongue. They tell us to pronounce 'audi 
ence' 'owdience'; and 'civiP 'keyweel.' They have distorted 
one of my most serviceable and impressive quotations into 
the ridiculous booby c Wainy, Weedy, Weeky.' Punishment 
should be reserved for those who have spread this evil. 

We shall see another instance of perverted pedantry when 
we reach the Indian chapters of this book. When I was a 
boy everyone wrote and said Tunjaub,' 'pundit,' 'Umbala,' 



etc. But then some learned notables came along saying < 
you must spell them correctly.' So the Englishman now 
refers to the Tan jab/ to the 'pandit so and so/ or to c the 
troubles at Ambala or Amritsar. 7 When Indians hear him 
they are astonished at his outlandish speech: and that is the 
sole reward of his superior erudition. I am very conservative 
in all these things. I always spell the Czar, *Czar. ? As for 
the Revised version of the Bible and the alterations in the 
Prayer Book and especially the Marriage service, they are 



IT took me three tries to pass into Sandhurst. There were 
five subjects, of which Mathematics, Latin and English 
were obligatory, and I chose in addition French and Chem 
istry. In this hand I held only a pair of Kings English and 
Chemistry. Nothing less than three would open the jack 
pot. I had to find another useful card. Latin I could not 
learn. I had a rooted prejudice which seemed to close my 
mind against it. Two thousand marks were given for Latin. 
I might perhaps get 400! French was interesting but rather 
tricky, and difficult to learn in England. So there remained 
only Mathematics. After the first Examination was over, 
when one surveyed the battlefield, it was evident that the 
war could not be won without another army being brought 
into the line. Mathematics was the only resource available. 
I turned to them I turned on them in desperation. All 
my life from time to time I have had to get up disagreeable 
subjects at short notice, but I consider my triumph, moral 
and technical, was in learning Mathematics in six months. 
At the first of these three ordeals I got no more than 500 
marks out of 2,500 for Mathematics. At the second I got 
nearly 2,000. I owe this achievement not only to my own 
< back-to-the-walP resolution for which no credit is too 
great} but to the very kindly interest taken in my case by 
a much respected Harrow master, Mr. C. H. P. Mayo. He 
convinced me that Mathematics was not a hopeless bog of 
nonsense, and that there were meanings and rhythms behind 
the comical hieroglyphics j and that I was not incapable of 
catching glimpses of some of these. 

Of course what I call Mathematics is only what the Civil 
Service Commissioners expected you to know to pass a very 



rudimentary examination. I suppose that to those who enjoy 
this peculiar gift, Senior Wranglers and the like, the waters 
in which I swam must seem only a duck-puddle compared 
to the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, when I plunged in, I 
was soon out of my depth. When I look back upon those 
care-laden months, their prominent features rise from the 
abyss of memory. Of course I had progressed far beyond 
Vulgar Fractions and the Decimal System. We were arrived 
in an <Alice~in- Wonderland' world, at the portals of which 
stood C A Quadratic Equation.' This with a strange grimace 
pointed the way to the Theory of Indices, which again 
handed on the intruder to the full rigours of the Binomial 
Theorem. Further dim chambers lighted by sullen, sul 
phurous fires were reputed to contain a dragon called the 
'Differential Calculus. 3 But this monster was beyond the 
bounds appointed by the Civil Service Commissioners who 
regulated this stage of Pilgrim's heavy journey. We turned 
aside, not indeed to the uplands of the Delectable Moun 
tains, but into a strange corridor of things like anagrams 
and acrostics called Sines, Cosines and Tangents. Apparently 
they were very important, especially when multiplied by 
each other, or by themselves! They had also this merit 
you could learn many of their evolutions off by heart. There 
was a question in my third and last Examination about these 
Cosines and Tangents in a highly square-rooted condition 
which must have been decisive upon the whole of my after 
life. It was a problem. But luckily I had seen its ugly face 
only a few days before and recognised it at first sight. 

I have never met any of these creatures since. With my 
third and successful examination they passed away like the 
phantasmagoria of a fevered dream. I am assured that they 
are most helpful in engineering, astronomy and things like 
that. It is very important to build bridges and canals and to 
comprehend all the stresses and potentialities of matter, to 
say nothing of counting all the stars and even universes and 
measuring how far off they are, and foretelling eclipses, the 



arrival of comets and such like. I am very glad there are 
quite a number of people born with a gift and a liking for 
all of this j like great chess-players who play sixteen games 
at once blindfold and die quite soon of epilepsy. Serve them 
right! I hope the Mathematicians, however, are well re 
warded. I promise never to blackleg their profession nor 
take the bread out of their mouths. 

I had a feeling once about Mathematics, that I saw it 
all Depth beyond depth was revealed to me the Byss 
and the Abyss. I saw, as one might see the transit of Venus 
or even the Lord Mayor's Show, a quantity passing 
through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. 
I saw exactly how it happened and why the tergiversation 
was inevitable: and how the one step involved all the others. 
It was like politics. But it was after dinner and. I let it go! 

The practical point is that if this aged, weary-souled 
Civil Service Commissioner had not asked this particular 
question about these Cosines or Tangents in their squared 
or even cubed condition, which I happened to have learned 
scarcely a week before, not one of the subsequent chapters 
of this book would ever have been written. I might have 
gone into the Church and preached orthodox sermons in a 
spirit of audacious contradiction to the age. I might have 
gone into the City and made a fortune. I might have re 
sorted to the Colonies, or 'Dominions' as they are now 
called, in the hopes of pleasing, or at least placating them; 
and thus had, a la Lindsay Gordon or Cecil Rhodes, a lurid 
career. I might even have gravitated to the Bar, and per 
sons might have been hanged through my defence who now 
nurse their guilty secrets with complacency. Anyhow the 
whole of my life would have been altered, and that I sup 
pose would have altered a great many other lives, which in 
their turn, and so on. ... 

But here we seem to be getting back to mathematics, which 
I quitted for ever in the year 1894. Let it suffice that this 
Civil Service Commissioner putting this particular question 



in routine or caprice deflected, so far as I was concerned, 
the entire sequence of events. I have seen Civil Service Com 
missioners since. I have seen them in the flesh. I have even 
appointed their Chief. I admire them. I honour them. We 
all do. But no one, least of all themselves, would suppose 
they could play so decisive and cardinal a part in human 
affairs. Which brings me to my conclusion upon Free Will 
and Predestination j namely let the reader mark it that 
they are identical. 

I have always loved butterflies. In Uganda I saw glori 
ous butterflies the colour of whose wings changed from the 
deepest russet brown to the most brilliant blue, according to 
the angle from which you saw them. In Brazil as everyone 
knows there are butterflies of this kind even larger and more 
vivid- The contrast is extreme. You could not conceive colour 
effects more violently opposed 5 but it is the same butterfly. 
The butterfly is the Fact gleaming, fluttering, settling for 
an instant with wings fully spread to the sun, then vanish 
ing in the shades of the forest. Whether you believe in Free 
Will or Predestination, all depends on the slanting glimpse 
you had of the colour of his wings which are in fact at 
least two colours at the same time. But I have not quitted 
and renounced the Mathematick to fall into the Metaphysick. 
Let us return to the pathway of narrative. 

When I failed for the second time to pass into Sandhurst, 
I bade farewell to Harrow and was relegated as a forlorn 
hope to a c crammer. ? Captain James and his highly com 
petent partners kept an establishment in the Cromwell Road. 
It was said that no one who was not a congenital idiot could 
avoid passing thence into the Army. The Firm had made a 
scientific study of the mentality of the Civil Service Com 
missioners. They knew with almost Papal infallibility the 
sort of questions which that sort of person would be bound 
on the average to ask on any of the selected subjects. They 
specialised on these questions and on the answering of them. 
They fired a large number of efficient shot-guns into the 



brown of the covey, and they claimed a high and steady 
average of birds. Captain James if he had known it was 
really the ingenious forerunner of the inventors of the artil 
lery barrages of the Great War. He fired from carefully 
selected positions upon the areas which he knew must be 
tenanted by large bodies of enemy troops. He had only to 
fire a given number of shells per acre per hour to get his 
bag. He did not need to see the enemy soldiers. Drill was 
all he had to teach his gunners. Thus year by year for at 
least two decades he held the Blue Ribbon among the Cram 
mers. He was like one of those people who have a sure 
system for breaking the Bank at Monte Carlo, with the 
important difference that in a great majority of cases his 
system produced success. Even the very hardest cases could 
be handled. No absolute guarantee was given, but there 
would always be far more than a sporting chance. 

However, just as I was about to enjoy the advantage of 
this renowned system of intensive poultry-farming, I met 
with a very serious accident. 

My aunt, Lady Wimborne, had lent us her comfortable 
estate at Bournemouth for the winter. Forty or fifty acres 
of pine forest descended by sandy undulations terminating 
in cliffs to the smooth beach of the English Channel. It was 
a small, wild place and through the middle there fell to 
the sea level a deep cleft called a 'chine.' Across this 'chine' 
a rustic bridge nearly 50 yards long had been thrown. I 
was just 1 8 and on my holidays. My younger brother aged 
12, and a cousin aged 14, proposed to chase me. After I had 
been hunted for twenty minutes and was rather short of 
breath, I decided to cross the bridge. Arrived at its centre 
I saw to my consternation that the pursuers had divided 
their forces. One stood at each end of the bridge 5 capture 
seemed certain. But in a flash there came across me a great 
project. The chine which the bridge spanned was full of 
young fir trees. Their slender tops reached to the level of 
the footway. 'Would it not/ I asked myself, 'be possible to 



leap on to one of them and slip down the pole-like stem, 
breaking off each tier of branches as one descended, until 
the fall was broken?' I looked at it. I computed it, I medi 
tated. Meanwhile I climbed over the balustrade. My young 
pursuers stood wonder-struck at either end of the bridge. 
To plunge or not to plunge, that was the question! In a 
second I had plunged, throwing out my arms to embrace 
the summit of the fir tree. The argument was correct} the 
data were absolutely wrong. It was three days before I re 
gained consciousness and more than three months before 
I crawled from my bed. The measured fall was 29 feet on 
to hard ground. But no doubt the branches helped. My 
mother, summoned by the alarming message of the children, 
'He jumped over the bridge and he won't speak to us,' hur 
ried down with energetic aid and inopportune brandy. It 
was an axiom with my parents that in serious accident or 
illness the highest medical aid should be invoked, regard 
less of cost. Eminent specialists stood about my bed. Later 
on when I could understand again, I was shocked and also 
flattered to hear of the enormous fees they had been paid. 
My father travelled over at full express from Dublin where 
he had been spending his Christmas at one of old Lord 
Fitzgibbon's once-celebrated parties. He brought the great 
est of London surgeons with him. I had among other in 
juries a ruptured kidney. It is to the surgeon's art and to 
my own pronounced will-to-live that the reader is indebted 
for this story. But for a year I looked at life round a corner. 
They made a joke about it in those days at the Carlton 
Club, 'I hear Randolph's son met with a serious accident.' 
'Yes? Playing a game of Follow my Leader,' 'Well, Ran 
dolph is not likely to come to grief in that way!' 

The Unionist Government had been beaten, though only 
by forty, in the Summer Election of 1892 and Mr. Glad- 



stone had taken office with the help of the Irish Nationalists. 
The new Parliament, having met to change the Administra 
tion, was in accordance with the wise and happy practice 
of those days prorogued for a six months' holiday. The 
Session of 1893 an d the inevitable re-opening of the Home 
Rule struggle were eagerly and anxiously awaited. Natu 
rally our household had not been much grieved at the de 
feat of what my father had described as c a Government and 
party which for five years have boycotted and slandered 
me.' In fact our whole family with its many powerful 
branches and all his friends looked forward to the new sit 
uation with lively hope. It was thought that he would in 
Opposition swiftly regain the ascendancy in Parliament and 
in his party which had been destroyed by his resignation six 
years before. 

No one cherished these hopes more ardently than I. Al 
though in the past little had been said in my hearing, one 
could not grow up in my father's house, and still less among 
his mother and sisters, without understanding that there had 
been a great political disaster. Dignity and reticence upon 
this subject were invariably preserved before strangers, chil 
dren and servants. Only once do I remember my father 
having breathed a word of complaint about his fortunes to 
me, and that for a passing moment. Only once did he lift 
his visor in my sight. This was at our house at Newmarket 
in the autumn of 1892. He had reproved me for startling 
him by firing off a double-barrelled gun at a rabbit which 
had appeared on the lawn beneath his windows. He had 
been very angry and disturbed. Understanding at once that 
I was distressed, he took occasion to reassure me. I then had 
one of the three or four long intimate conversations with 
him which are all I can boast. He explained how old people 
were not always very considerate towards young people, 
that they were absorbed in their own affairs and might well 
speak roughly in sudden annoyance. He said he was glad I 
liked shooting, and that he had arranged for me to shoot 



on September ist (this was the end of August) such par 
tridges as our small property contained. Then he proceeded 
to talk to me in the most wonderful and captivating manner 
about school and going into the Army and the grown-up 
life which lay beyond. I listened spellbound to this sudden 
complete departure from his usual reserve, amazed at his 
intimate comprehension of all my affairs. Then at the end 
he said, *Do remember things do not always go right with 
me. My every action is misjudged and every word distorted. 
... So make some allowances.' 

Of course J was his vehement partisan and so in her mild 
way was Mrs. Everest, who had now become housekeeper 
in my grandmother's house, 50, Grosvenor Square, where we 
had all gone to live to save expense. When after twenty 
years of faithful service she retired upon a pension, she en 
trusted her savings to my father, who drove down to the 
city in his private hansom to a special luncheon with Lord 
Rothschild at New Court for the purpose of investing them 
with the utmost security and advantage. I knew quite well 
that the 'Old Gang 7 of the Conservative Party owed their 
long reign to his personal fighting, and to his revival of 
Tory democracy, and that at his first slip a grave one 
they had shown themselves utterly destitute of generosity 
or gratitude. We all of course looked forward to his re- 
conquest of power. We saw as children the passers-by take 
off their hats in the streets and the workmen grin when 
they saw his big moustache. For years I had read every word 
he spoke and what the newspapers said about him. Although 
he was only a private member and quite isolated, everything 
he said even at the tiniest bazaar was reported verbatim in 
all the newspapers, and every phrase was scrutinized and 
weighed. Now it seemed that his chance had come again. 

I had been carried to London, and from my bed I fol 
lowed with keen interest the political events of 1893. For 
this I was well circumstanced. My mother gave me full 
accounts of what she heard, and Mr. Edward Marjoribanks, 



afterwards Lord Tweedmouth, Mr. Gladstone's Chief 
Whip, was married to my father's sister Fanny. We thus 
shared in a detached way the satisfaction of the Liberals at 
coming back to power after their long banishment. We heard 
some at least of their hopes and fears. Politics seemed very 
important and vivid to my eyes in those days. They were 
directed by statesmen of commanding intellect and person 
ality. The upper classes in their various stations took part 
in them as a habit and as a duty. The working men whether 
they had votes or not followed them as a sport. They took 
as much interest in national affairs and were as good judges 
of form in public men, as is now the case about cricket or 
football. The newspapers catered obediently for what was 
at once an educated and a popular taste. 

Favoured at first by the indulgences accorded to an in 
valid, I became an absorbed spectator of Mr. Gladstone's 
last great Parliamentary battle. Indeed it far outweighed 
in my mind the dreaded Examination the last shot which 
impended in August. As time wore on I could not help 
feeling that my father's speeches were not as good as they 
used to be. There were some brilliant successes: yet on the 
whole he seemed to be hardly holding his own. I hoped of 
course that I should grow up in time to come to his aid. I 
knew that he would have received such a suggestion with 
unaffected amusement j but I thought of Austen Chamber 
lain who was allowed to fight at his father's side, and Her 
bert Gladstone who had helped the Grand Old Man to cut 
down the oak trees and went everywhere with him, and I 
dreamed of days to come when Tory democracy would dis 
miss the 'Old Gang' with one hand and defeat the Radicals 
with the other. 

During this year I met at my father's house many of the 
leading figures of the Parliamentary conflict, and was often 
at luncheon or dinner when across his table not only eol- 
leagues, but opponents, amicably interchanged opinions on 
the burning topics of the hour. It was then that I first met 



Mr. Balfour, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Edward Carson and 
also Lord Rosebery, Mr. Asquith, Mr. John Morley and 
other fascinating ministerial figures. It seemed a very great 
world in which these men lived ; a world where high rules 
reigned and every trifle in public conduct counted: a duel 
ling-ground where although the business might be ruthless, 
and the weapons loaded with ball, there was ceremonious 
personal courtesy and mutual respect. But of course I saw 
this social side only when my father had either intimate 
friends or persons of high political consequence as his guests. 
I have heard that on neutral ground he was incredibly fierce, 
and affronted people by saying the most blunt or even sav 
age things. Certainly those who did not know him well 
approached him with caution or heavily armed. 

So soon as I was convalescent I began to go to the House 
of Commons and listen to the great debates. I even man 
aged to squeeze in to the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery 
when Mr. Gladstone wound up the second reading of the 
Home Rule Bill. Well do I remember the scene and some 
of its incidents. The Grand Old Man looked like a great 
white eagle at once fierce and splendid. His sentences rolled 
forth majestically and everyone hung upon his lips and ges 
tures, eager to cheer or deride. He wa at the climax of a 
tremendous passage about how the Liberal Party had al 
ways carried every cause it had espoused to victory. He 
made a slip, 'And there is no cause/ he exclaimed (Home 
Rule), 'for which the Liberal Party has suffered so much 
or descended so low? How the Tories leapt and roared 
with delight! But Mr. Gladstone, shaking his right hand 
with fingers spread clawlike, quelled the tumult and re 
sumed 'But we have risen again. . . .' 

I was also a witness of his celebrated tribute to Mr. 
Chamberlain on his son Austen's maiden speech. C I will not 
enter upon any elaborate eulogy of that speech. I will endeav 
our to sum up in a few words what I desire to say of it. It was 
a speech which must have been dear and refreshing to a 



father's heart.' From where I crouched on the floor of the 
Gallery peering through the balustrade I could see the 
effect these words instantaneously produced on Mr. Cham 
berlain. He was hit as if a bullet had struck him. His pale 
almost sallow countenance turned pink with emotion he 
could not, or did not care to restrain. He half rose and made 
a little bow, and then hunched himself up with lowered 
head. There does not seem to be much in these words how 
ever well chosen, when they are written down. It was the 
way the thing was done that swept aside for a moment the 
irreparable enmities of years. 

On another occasion when I was in the Gallery I heard 
my father and Sir William Harcourt have some very fierce 
and rough interchanges. Sir William seemed to be quite 
furious and most unfair in his reply, and I was astonished 
when only a few minutes later, he made his way up to 
where I sat and with a beaming smile introduced himself 
to me, and asked me what I thought of it all. 

What with the, after-weakness of my accident and these 
political excitements Captain James hardly had a fair chance 
in preparing me for my examination. Nevertheless my third 
attempt achieved a modified success. I qualified for a cav 
alry cadetship at Sandhurst. The competition for the infan 
try was keener, as life in the cavalry was so much more 
expensive. Those who were at the bottom of the list were 
accordingly offered the easier entry into the cavalry. I was 
delighted at having passed the examination and even more 
at the prospect of soldiering on horseback. I had already 
formed a definite opinion upon the relative advantages of 
riding and walking. What fun it would be having a horse! 
Also the uniforms of the cavalry -were far more magnificent 
than those of the Foot. It was therefore in an expansive 
spirit that I wrote to my father. I found to my surprise that 



he took a contrary view. He thought it very discreditable 
that I had not qualified for the infantry. He had proposed 
that I should enter the 6oth Rifles, a famous four-battalion 
regiment which although habited in black had a red flash on 
cuffs and collar. 'By going into the 6oth Rifles/ he had said, 
'you will be able to serve two or three years in a Mediter 
ranean fortress, and thus be fully matured before you begin 
your service in India.' He had, it seemed, already written 
to -the Duke of Cambridge who was the Colonel-in-Chief 
of the 6oth, suggesting that I should ultimately enter his 
regiment, and had received a gracious response. Now all 
these plans were upset, and upset in the most inconvenient 
and expensive manner. The Duke would never have a chance 
of welcoming me: and cavalry are not required in Mediter 
ranean fortresses. 'In the infantry,' my father had remarked, 
'one has to keep a manj in the cavalry a man and a horse 
as well. 7 This was not only true, but even an understate 
ment. Little did he foresee not only one horse, but two of 
ficial chargers and one or two hunters besides to say noth 
ing of the indispensable string of polo ponies! Nevertheless 
he was extremely dissatisfied and in due course I received 
from him a long and very severe letter expressing the bleak 
est view of my educational career, showing a marked lack 
of appreciation at my success in the examination, which he 
suggested I had only scraped through, and warning me of 
the danger in which I plainly lay of becoming a 'social 
wastrel!' I was pained and startled by this communication, 
and made haste to promise better results in the future. All 
the same I rejoiced at going to Sandhurst, and at the pros 
pect of becoming a real live cavalry officer in no more than 
1 8 months: and I busied myself in ordering the considerable 
necessary outfit of a gentleman-cadet. 

My brother and I were sent this summer by our parents 
for a so-called walking-tour in Switzerland, with a tutor* 



I need hardly say we travelled by train so far as the money 
lasted. The tutor and I climbed mountains. We climbed the 
Wetterhorn and Monte Rosa. The spectacle of the sunrise 
striking the peaks of the Bernese Oberland is a marvel of 
light and colour unsurpassed in my experience* I longed to 
climb the Matterhorn, but this was not only too expensive 
but held by the tutor to be too dangerous. All this prudence 
however might easily have been upset by an incident which 
happened to me in the lake of Lausanne. I record this in 
cident that it may be a warning to others. I went for a row 
with another boy a little younger than myself. When we 
were more than a mile from the shore, we decided to have 
a swim, pulled off our clothes, jumped into the water and 
swam about in great delight. When we had had enough, the 
boat was perhaps 100 yards away. A breeze had begun to 
stir the waters. The boat had a small red awning over its 
stern seats. This awning acted as a sail by catching the 
breeze. As we swam towards the boat, it drifted farther off. 
After this had happened several times we had perhaps 
halved the distance. But meanwhile the breeze was freshen 
ing and we both, especially my companion, began to be 
tired. Up to this point no idea of danger had crossed my 
mind. The sun played upon the sparkling blue waters; the 
wonderful panorama of mountains and valleys, the gay 
hotels and villas still smiled. But I now saw Death as near 
as I believe I have ever seen Him. He was swimming in 
the water at our side, whispering from time to time in the 
rising wind which continued to carry the boat away from us 
at about the same speed we could swim. No help was near. 
Unaided we could never reach the shore. I was not only an 
easy, but a fast swimmer, having represented my House at 
Harrow, when our team defeated all comers. I now swam 
for life. Twice I reached within a yard of the boat and each 
time a gust carried it just beyond my reach; but by a ^su 
preme effort I caught hold of its side in the nick of time 
before a still stronger gust bulged the red awning again. I 



scrambled in, and rowed back for my companion who, though 
tired, had not apparently realised the dull yellow glare of 
mortal peril that had so suddenly played around us. I said 
nothing to the tutor about this serious experience; but I 
have never forgotten it; and perhaps some of my readers 
will remember it too. 

My stay at the Royal Military College formed an inter 
mediate period in my life. It brought to a close nearly 12 
years of school. Thirty-six terms each of many weeks (in 
terspersed with all-too-short holidays) during the whole of 
which I had enjoyed few gleams of success, in which I had 
hardly ever been asked to learn anything which seemed of 
the slightest use or interest, or allowed to play any game 
which was amusing. In retrospect these years form not only 
the least agreeable, but the only barren and unhappy period 
of my life. I was happy as a child with my toys in my 
nursery. I have been happier every year since I became a 
man. But this interlude of school makes a sombre grey patch 
upon the chart of my journey. It was an unending spell of 
worries that did not then seem petty, and of toil uncheered 
by fruition; a time of discomfort, restriction and purpose 
less monotony. 

This train of thought must not lead me to exaggerate 
the character of my schooldays. Actually no doubt they 
were buoyed up by the laughter and high spirits of youth. 
Harrow was a very good school, and a high standard of 
personal service prevailed among its masters. Most of the 
boys were very happy, and many found in its classrooms 
and upon its playing-fields the greatest distinction they have 
ever known in life. I can only record the fact that, no doubt 
through my own shortcomings, I was an exception, I would 
far rather have been apprenticed as a bricklayer's mate, or 
run errands as a messenger boy, or helped my father to 
dress the front windows of a grocer's shop. It would have 
been real} it would have been natural; it would have taught 
me more; and I should have done it much better. Also I 


should have got to know my father, which would have been 
a joy to me. 

Certainly the prolonged education indispensable to the 
progress of Society is not natural to mankind. It cuts against 
the grain. A boy would like to follow his father in pursuit 
of food or prey- He would like to be doing serviceable 
things so far as his -utmost strength allowed. He would like 
to be earning wages however small to help to keep up the 
home. He would like to have some leisure of his own to 
use or misuse as he pleased. He would ask little more than 
the right to work or starve. And then perhaps in the eve 
nings a real love of learning would come to those who were 
worthy and why try to stuff it into those who are not? 
and knowledge and thought would open the 'magic case 
ments' of the mind. 

I was on the whole considerably discouraged by my school 
days. Except in Fencing, in which I had won the Public 
School Championship, I had achieved no distinction. All 
my contemporaries and even younger boys' seemed in every 
way better adapted to the conditions of our little world. 
They were far better both at the games and at the lessons. 
It is not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed 
and left behind at the very beginning of the race. I had 
been surprised on taking leave of Dr. Welldon to hear him 
predict, with a confidence for which I could see no founda 
tion, that I should be able to make my way all right. I have 
always been very grateful to him for this. 

I am all for the Public Schools but I do not want to go 
there again. 

My greatest friend at Harrow was Jack Milbanke. He 
was nearly two years my senior. He was the son of an old 
baronet whose family had lived at Chichester for many gen 
erations. He was not remarkable either at games or lessons. 
In these spheres he was only slightly above the average of 
his contemporaries. But he had a style and distinction of 
manner which were exceptional, and a mature outlook and 



conversation the like of which I never saw in any other 
Harrow boy. He was always the great gentleman, self- 
composed, cool, sedate, spick and span and faultlessly 
dressed. When my father came down to see me, he used to 
take us both to luncheon at the King's Head Hotel. I was 
thrilled to hear them talk, as if they were equals, with the 
easy assurance of one man of the world to another. I envied 
him so much. How I should have loved to have that sort 
of relationship with my father! But alas I was only a back 
ward schoolboy and my incursions into the conversation were 
nearly always awkward or foolish. 

Milbanke and I embarked upon one adventure together. 
We discovered that by an old custom there should be 
no compulsory football in trial week. This rule had fallen 
into desuetude for some years. We therefore refused to 
play, citing the custom and alleging that we must concen 
trate upon our studies. By so doing we courted a severe 
caning from the monitors. Nevertheless it could not be de 
nied that we 'had the law of them.' The issue was gravely 
debated in the highest circles. For three or four days we did 
not know what our fate would be. Our case was prejudiced 
by the suspicion that we were not wearing ourselves out by 
study, but on the contrary might even have been called 
idle. However in the end it was decided that we must have 
our way, and I trust the precedent thus boldly established 
has not been lost in later generations. 

Milbanke was destined for the Army and had set his 
heart upon the loth Hussars. His father allowed him to go 
in through the Militia, a course which though slightly 
longer, avoided most of the examinations. He therefore 
left Harrow a year before I did and soon blossomed out 
into a Militia subaltern. We kept up a regular correspond 
ence and often saw each other in the holidays. We shall 
meet him again in these pages. He was destined to the 
highest military honours. He gained the Victoria Cross in 
the South African War for rescuing, when he was already 



grievously wounded, one of his troopers under a deadly fire. 
He fell in the Gallipoli Peninsula, leading a forlorn attack 
in the awful battle of Suvla Bay. 

I enjoyed the Harrow songs. They have an incompara 
ble book of school songs. At intervals we used to gather in 
the Speech Room, or even in our own Houses, and sing these 
splendid and famous choruses. I believe these songs are the 
greatest treasure that Harrow possesses. There is certainly 
nothing like them at Eton. There they have only got one 
song and that about Rowing, which though good exercise is 
poor sport and poorer poetry. We used also to have lec 
tures from eminent persons on scientific or historical subjects. 
These made a great impression on me. To have an exciting 
story told you by someone who is a great authority, especi 
ally if he has a magic lantern, is for me the best way of 
learning. Once I had heard the lecture and had listened 
with great attention, I could have made a very fair show 
of delivering it myself. I remember five lectures particu 
larly to this day. The first by Mr. Bowen, the most cele 
brated of Harrow masters and the author of many of our 
finest songs, gave us a thrilling account in popular form of 
the battle of Waterloo. He gave another lecture on the 
battle of Sedan which I greatly enjoyed. Some years after 
wards I found that he had taken it almost literally from 
Hooper's Sedan one of my colonel's favourite books. It 
was none the worse for that. There was a lecture on climb 
ing the Alps by the great Mr. Whymper with wonderful 
pictures of guides and tourists hanging on by their eyelids or 
standing with their backs to precipices which even in photo 
graphs made one squirm. There was a lecture about how 
butterflies protect themselves by their colouring. A nasty 
tasting butterfly has gaudy colouring to warn the bird not 
to eat it. A succulent, juicy-tasting butterfly protects him 
self by making himself exactly like his usual branch or leaf. 


But this takes them millions of years to do; and in the mean 
while the more backward ones get eaten and die out. That is 
why the survivors are marked and coloured as they are. 
Lastly we had a lecture from Mr. Parkin on Imperial Fed 
eration. He told us how at Trafalgar Nelson's signal 
'England expects that every man this day will do his duty' 
ran down the line of battle, and how if we and our Colo 
nies all held together, a day would come when such a signal 
would run not merely along a line of ships, but along a line 
of nations. We lived to see this come true, and I was able to 
remind the aged Mr. Parkin of it, when in the last year of 
his life he attended some great banquet in celebration of our 
victorious emergence from the Great War. 

I wonder they do not have these lectures more often. 
They might well have one every fortnight, and afterwards 
all the boys should be set to work to write first what they 
could remember about it, and secondly what they could 
think about it. Then the masters would soon begin to find 
out who could pick things up as they went along and make 
them into something new, and who were the dullards; and 
the classes of the school would soon get sorted out accord 

Thus Harrow would not have stultified itself by keep 
ing me at the bottom of the school, and I should have had 
a much jollier time. 



Ar Sandhurst I had a new start. I was no longer handi 
capped by past neglect of Latin, French or Mathe 
matics. We had now to learn fresh things and we all started 
equal. Tactics, Fortification, Topography (mapmaking), 
Military Law and Military Administration formed the 
whole curriculum. In addition were Drill, Gymnastics and 
Riding. No one need play any game unless he wanted to. 
Discipline was strict and the hours of study and parade were 
long. One was very tired at the end of the day. I was 
deeply interested in my work, especially Tactics and Forti 
fication. My father instructed his bookseller Mr. Bain to 
send me any books I might require for my studies. So I 
ordered Hamley's Operations of War, Prince Kraft's Let 
ters on Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, Maine's Infantry 
Fire Tactics, together with a number of histories dealing 
with the American Civil, Franco-German and Russo-Turk- 
ish wars, which were then our latest and best specimens 
of wars. I soon had a small military library which invested 
the regular instruction with some sort of background. I did 
not much like the drill and indeed figured for several 
months in the 'Awkward Squad,' formed from those who 
required special smartening up. But the practical work in 
field fortification was most exciting. We dug trenches, con 
structed breastworks, revetted parapets with sandbags, with 
heather, with fascines, or with 'Jones' iron band gabion.' We 
put up chevaux de f rises and made fougasses (a kind of 
primitive land mine). We cut railway lines with slabs of 
guncotton, and learned how to blow up masonry bridges, or 
make substitutes out of pontoons or timber. We drew con 
toured maps of all the hills round Camberley, made road 



reconnaissances in every direction, and set out picket lines and 
paper plans for advanced guards or rear guards, and even 
did some very simple tactical schemes. We were never 
taught anything about bombs or hand-grenades, because of 
course these weapons were known to be long obsolete. They 
had gone out of use in the eighteenth century, and would be 
quite useless in modern war. 

All this was no doubt very elementary, and our minds 
were not allowed to roam in working hours beyond a sub 
altern's range of vision. But sometimes I was invited to dine 
at the Staff College, less than a mile away, where all the 
cleverest officers in the Army were being trained for the 
High Command. Here the study was of divisions, army 
corps and even whole armies; of bases, of supplies, and 
lines of communication and railway strategy. This was thrill 
ing. It did seem such a pity that it all had to be make- 
believe, and that the age of wars between civilized nations 
had come to an end for ever. If it had only been 100 years 
earlier what splendid times we should have had! Fancy 
being nineteen in 1793 with more than twenty years of war 
against Napoleon in front of one! However, all that was 
finished. The British Army had never fired on white troops 
since the Crimea, and now that the world was growing so 
sensible and pacific and so democratic too the great days 
were over. Luckily, however, there were still savages and 
barbarous peoples. There were Zulus and Afghans, also the 
Dervishes of the Soudan. Some of these might, if they were 
well-disposed, 'put up a show' some day. There might even 
be a mutiny or a revolt in India. At that time the natives 
had adopted a mysterious practice of smearing the mango 
trees, and we all fastened hopefully upon an article in the 
Spectator which declared that perhaps in a few months we 
might have India to reconquer. We wondered about all this. 
Of course we should all get our commissions so much earlier 
and march about the plains of India and win medals and dis 
tinction, and perhaps rise to very high command like Clive 



when quite young! These thoughts were only partially con 
soling, for after all fighting the poor Indians, compared with 
taking part in a real European war, was only like riding in 
a paper-chase instead of in the Grand National. Still one 
must make the best one can of the opportunities of the age. 

I enjoyed the riding-school thoroughly, and got on 
and off as well as most. My father arranged in my holi 
days, or vacations as it was now proper to call them, for me 
to go through an additional course of riding-school at 
Knightsbridge Barracks with the Royal Horse Guards. I bit 
the tan there on numerous occasions. Afterwards when I 
joined my regiment I had another full five months' course, 
and taking them altogether, I think I was pretty well trained 
to sit and manage a horse. This is one of the most important 
things in the world. 

Horses were the greatest of my pleasures at Sandhurst. 
I and the group in which I moved spent all our money on 
hiring horses from the very excellent local livery stables. 
We ran up bills on the strength of our future commissions. 
We organized point-to-points and even a steeplechase in 
the park of a friendly grandee, and bucketted gaily about 
the countryside. And here I say to parent % s, especially to 
wealthy parents, 'Don't give your son money. As far as you 
can afford it, give him horses.' No one ever came to grief 
except honourable grief through riding horses. No hour of 
life is lost that is spent in the saddle. Young men have 
often been ruined through owning horses, or through back 
ing horses, but never through riding them 5 unless of course 
they break their necks, which, taken at a gallop, is a very 
good death to die. 

Once I became a gentleman cadet I acquired a new status 
in my father's eyes. I was entitled when on leave to go 
about with him, if it was not inconvenient. He was always 
amused by acrobats, jugglers, and performing animals $ and 
it was with him that I first visited the Empire Theatre. He 
took me also to important political parties at Lord Roth- 



schilcPs house at Tring, where most of the leaders and a 
selection of the rising men of the Conservative Party were 
often assembled. He began to take me also to stay with his 
racing friends; and here we had a different company and 
new topics of conversation which proved equally entertain 
ing. In fact to me he seemed to own the key to everything or 
almost everything worth having. But if ever I began to show 
the slightest idea of comradeship, he was immediately 
offended; and when once I suggested that I might help his 
private secretary to write some of his letters, he froze me 
into stone. I know now that this would have been only a 
passing phase. Had he lived another four or five years, he 
could not have done without me. But there were no four or 
five years! Just as friendly relations were ripening into an 
Entente, and an alliance or at least a military agreement 
seemed to my mind not beyond the bounds of reasonable 
endeavour, he vanished for ever. 

In the spring of 1894 it became clear to all of us that my 
father was gravely ill. He still persisted in his political 
work. Almost every week he delivered a speech at some 
important centre. No one could fail to see that these ef 
forts were increasingly unsuccessful. The verbatim reports 
dropped from three to two columns and then to one and a 
half. On one occasion The Times mentioned that the hall 
was not filled. Finally I heard my mother and the old 
Duchess who so often disagreed both urging him to take 
a rest, while he persisted that he was all right and that 
everything was going well. I knew that these two who 
were so near and devoted to him would never have pressed 
him thus without the gravest need. 

I can see my father now in a somewhat different light 
from the days when I wrote his biography. I have long 
passed the age at which he died. I understand only too 
plainly the fatal character of his act of resignation. He 
was 'the daring pilot in extremity.' That was his hour. But 
conditions changed with the Unionist victory of 1886. Quiet 



Aged 36 
Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons 


times were required and political repose. Lord Salisbury 
represented to the nation what it needed and desired. He 
settled down heavily to a long steady reign. Naturally he 
was glad to have the whole power in his own hands, instead 
of dividing it with a restless rival, entrenched in the leader 
ship of the House of Commons and the control of the public 
purse. It is never possible for a man to recover his lost 
position. He may recover another position in the fifties or 
sixties, but not the one he lost in the thirties or forties. To 
hold the leadership of a party or nation with dignity and 
authority requires that the leader's qualities and message 
shall meet not only the need but the mood of both. 

Moreover from the moment Lord Randolph Churchill 
became Chancellor of the Exchequer responsible in large 
measure for the affairs of the nation, he ceased in vital mat 
ters to be a Tory. He adopted with increasing zest the Glad- 
stonian outlook, with the single exception of Irish Home 
Rule; and in all social and labour questions he was far 
beyond what the Whig or middle-class Liberal of that epoch 
could have tolerated. Even on Ireland his convictions were 
unusually independent. The Conservative Party would not 
have relished any of this. Indeed I think if he had lived to 
keep his health, it is more than likely that he would have 
resisted the South African War to an extent that would have 
exposed him to odium with the very working-class elements 
of whose good-will he was so proud. His only real card of 
re-entry would have been to have forestalled Mr. Chamber 
lain's Protection campaign. Everything that I know suggests 
to me that he would far more likely have been one of its 
chief opponents. He was not the man to take his decisions 
from party caucuses. When he Was faction-fighting he fought 
to win, seizing anything that came along. But when responsi 
ble, his contribution to public affairs was faithful and origi 
nal. He never sat down to play a cold, calculated game. He 
said what he thought. It was better so. 

Mr. Gladstone's reputation as an orator depends less upon 



his published speeches than upon the effect they produced at 
the time upon the audience. Lord Randolph Churchill's 
place in our political history is measured not by his words 
and actions, but by the impression which his personality 
made upon his contemporaries. This was intense, and had 
circumstances continued favourable, might well have mani 
fested itself in decisive episodes. He embodied that force, 
caprice and charm which so often springs from genius. 

Now that I have been reading over all the letters which 
he wrote to me laboriously with his own hand after the 
fashion of those days, I feel that I did not at the time appre 
ciate how much he thought and cared for me. More than 
ever do I regret that we did not live long enough in com 
pany to know each other. I used to go to see Lord Rose- 
bery in the later years of his life because, apart from the 
respect I bore this distinguished man, I loved to hear him 
talk about my father. I had a feeling of getting nearer to 
my father when I talked with his intimate and illustrious 
friend. The last time I saw Lord Rosebery I said how much 
I should have liked to roll back the years, and talk about 
things with my father on even terms. The aged statesman 
said in a wonderful way: c Ah! he'd have understood.' 

I was making a road map on Chobham Common in June, 
1894, when a cyclist messenger brought me the college ad 
jutant's order to proceed at once to London. My father was 
setting out the next day on a journey round the world. An 
ordinary application to the college authorities for my being 
granted special leave of absence had been refused as a mat 
ter of routine. He had telegraphed to the Secretary of State 
for War, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, 'My last day in 
England' * . . and no time had been lost in setting me on 
my way to London. 

We drove to the station the next morning my mother, 
my younger brother and I. In spite of the great beard which 



he had grown during his South African journey four years 
before, his face looked terribly haggard and worn with 
mental pain. He patted me on the knee in a gesture which 
however simple was perfectly informing. 

There followed his long journey round the world. I never 
saw him again, except as a swiftly-fading shadow. 

I learned several things at Sandhurst which showed me 
how to behave and how officers of different ranks were ex 
pected to treat one another in the life and discipline of a regi 
ment. My company commander, Major Ball, of the Welsh 
regiment, was a very strict and peppery martinet. Formal, 
reserved, frigidly courteous, punctilious, impeccable, severe, 
he was held in the greatest awe. It had never been his for 
tune to go on active service, but we were none the less sure 
that he would have had to be killed to be beaten. 

The rule was, that if you went outside the college bounds, 
you first of all wrote your name in the company leave-book, 
and might then assume that your request was sanctioned. 
One day I drove a tandem (hired) over to Aldershot to see 
a friend in a militia battalion then training there. As I 
drove down the Marlborough lines, whom should I meet 
but Major Ball himself driving a spanking dog-cart home 
to Sandhurst. As I took off my hat to him, I remembered 
with a flash of anxiety that I had been too lazy or careless 
to write my name in the leave-book. However, I thought, 
'there is still a chance. He may not look at it until Mess 5 
and I will write my name down as soon as I get back.' I 
curtailed my visit to the militia battalion and hastened back 
to the college as fast as the ponies could trot. It was six 
o'clock when I got in. I ran along the passage to the desk 
where the leave-book lay, and the first thing that caught 
my eyes was the Major's initials, C O.B.' at the foot of the 
leaves granted for the day. I was too late. He had seen me 
in Aldershot and had seen that my name was not in the 



book. Then I looked again, and there to my astonishment 
was my own name written in the Major's hand- writing and 
duly approved by his initials. 

This opened my eyes to the kind of life which existed 
in the old British army and how the very strictest discipline 
could be maintained among officers without the slightest 
departure from the standards of a courteous and easy society. 
Naturally after such a rebuke I never was so neglectful 

Very much the same thing happened one day in the winter 
of 1915 when I was serving with the Grenadier Guards 
in front of Laventie. Our Colonel, then the well-known 
<Ma' Jeffreys a super-martinet, and a splendid officer ut 
terly unaffected by sixteen months of the brunt, deprecated 
the use of alcohol (apart from the regular rum ration) on 
duty, even under the shocking winter weather and in the 
front line. It was his wish, though not his actual order, that 
it should not be taken into the trenches. In a dark and 
dripping dug-out a bottle of port was being consumed, when 
the cry 'Commanding officer, 7 was heard and Colonel Jef 
freys began to descend the steps. A young officer in whom 
there evidently lay the germs of military genius instinctively 
stuck the guttering candle which lighted the dug-out into the 
mouth of the bottle. Such candlesticks were common. Every 
thing passed off perfectly. However, six months later this 
young officer found himself on leave in the Guards' Club, 
and there met Colonel Jeffreys. 'Have a glass of port wine?' 
said the Colonel. The subaltern accepted. The bottle was 
brought and the glasses emptied: 'Does it taste of candle 
grease?' said the Colonel 5 and they both laughed together. 


In my last term at Sandhurst if the reader will permit 
a digression my indignation was excited by the Purity 
Campaign of Mrs. Ormiston Chant. This lady was a mem 
ber of the London County Council and in the summer of 



1894 she started an active movement to purge our music- 
halls. Her attention was particularly directed to the prome 
nade of the Empire Theatre. This large space behind the 
dress circle was frequently crowded during the evening 
performances, and especially on Saturdays, with young peo 
ple of both sexes, who not only conversed together during 
the performance and its intervals, but also from time to 
time refreshed themselves with alcoholic liquors. Mrs. 
Ormiston Chant and her friends made a number of allega 
tions affecting both the sobriety and the morals of these 
merrymakers 5 and she endeavoured to procure the closing 
of the Promenade and above all of the bars which abutted 
on it. It seemed that the majority of the English public 
viewed these matters in a different light. Their cause was 
championed by the Daily Telegraph, in those days our lead 
ing popular newspaper. In a series of powerful articles 
headed Trades on the Prow? the Daily Telegraph inaugu 
rated a wide and spirited correspondence to which persons 
were wont to contribute above such pseudonyms as 'Mother 
of Five, 5 'Gentleman and Christian,' 'Live and Let Live/ 
'John Bull' and so forth. The controversy aroused keen 
public interest 5 but nowhere was it more searchingly debated 
than among my Sandhurst friends. We were accustomed to 
visit this very promenade in the brief leave allowed to us 
twice a month from Saturday noon till Sunday midnight. 
We were scandalised by Mrs. Chant's charges and insinua 
tions. We had never seen anything to complain of in the 
behaviour of either sex. Indeed the only point upon which 
criticism, as it seemed to us, might justly be directed was 
the strict and even rough manner in which the enormous 
uniformed commissionaires immediately removed, and even 
thrust forcibly into the street, anyone who had inadvertently 
overstepped the bounds of true temperance. We thought 
Mrs. Ormiston Chant's movement entirely uncalled-for and 
contrary to the best traditions of British freedom. 

In this cause I was keenly anxious to strike a blow. I 


noticed one day in the Daily Telegraph that a gentleman 
whose name escapes me proposed to found a League 
of Citizens to resist and counter the intolerance of Mrs. 
Chant and her backers. This was to be called 'The Enter 
tainments Protection League.' The League proposed to form 
committees and an executive, to take offices and enrol mem 
bers, to collect subscriptions, to hold public meetings and 
to issue literature in support of its views. I immediately 
volunteered my services. I wrote to the pious Founder at the 
address which he had given, expressing my cordial agree 
ment with his aims and my readiness to co-operate in every 
lawful way. In due course I received an answer on impres 
sively-headed notepaper informing me that my support was 
welcomed, and inviting my attendance at the first meeting 
of the Executive Committee, which was to be held on the 
following Wednesday at 6 o'clock in a London hotel. 

Wednesday was a half-holiday, and well-conducted cadets 
could obtain leave to go to London simply by asking for it. I 
occupied the three days' interval in composing a speech which 
I thought I might be called upon to deliver to a crowded 
executive of stern-faced citizens, about to unfurl that flag 
of British freedom for which 'Hampden died on the battle 
field and Sidney on the scaffold.' As I had never attempted 
to speak in public before, it was a serious undertaking. I 
wrote and rewrote my speech three or four times over, 
and committed it in all its perfection to my memory. It 
was a serious constitutional argument upon the inherent 
rights of British subjects} upon the dangers of State inter 
ference with the social habits of law-abiding persons 5 and 
upon the many evil consequences which inevitably follow 
upon repression not supported by healthy public opinion. 
It did not overstate the case, nor was it blind to facts. It 
sought to persuade by moderation and good-humour, and 
to convince by logic tempered with common sense. There 
was even in its closing phases an appeal for a patient mood 
towards our misguided opponents. Was there not always 


more error than malice in human affairs? This task com 
pleted I awaited eagerly and at the same time nervously the 
momentous occasion. 

As soon as our morning tasks were done I gobbled a 
hasty luncheon, changed into plain clothes (we were taught 
to abhor the word c mufti,' and such abominable expressions 
as 'civvies' were in those days unknown) and hastened to 
the railway station, where I caught a very slow train to 
London. I must mention that this was for me a time of 
straitened finance; in fact the cost of the return railway 
ticket left me with only a few shillings in my pocket, and 
it was more than a fortnight before my next monthly allow 
ance of 10 was due. I whiled away the journey by rehears 
ing the points and passages on which I principally relied. 
I drove in a hansom cab from Waterloo to Leicester Square 
near which the hotel appointed for the meeting of the Ex 
ecutive was situated. I was surprised and a little disconcerted 
at the dingy and even squalid appearance of these back 
streets and still more at the hotel when my cab eventually 
drew up before it. However, I said to myself, they are 
probably quite right to avoid the fashionable quarters. If this 
movement is to prosper it must be based upon the people's 
will; it must respond to those simple instincts which all 
classes have in common. It must not be compromised by 
association with gilded youth or smart society. To the porter 
I said C I have come to attend the meeting of the Entertain 
ments Protection League announced to be held this day in 
your hotel.' 

The porter looked rather puzzled, and then said C I think 
there's a gentleman in the smoking-room about that.' Into 
the smoking-room, a small dark apartment, I was accord 
ingly shown, and there I met face to face the Founder of the 
new body. He was alone. I was upset; but concealing my 
depression under the fast-vanishing rays of hope, I asked 
'When do we go up to the meeting?' He too seemed em 
barrassed. <I have written to several people, but they have 



none of them turned up, so there's only you and me. We can 
draw up the Constitution ourselves, if you like.' I said 'But 
you wrote to me on the headed paper of the League, 5 'Well/ 
he said 'that only cost 5^. It's always a good thing to have a 
printed heading on your notepaper in starting these sort of 
things. It encourages people to come forward. You see it 
encouraged you!' He paused as if chilled by my reserve, 
then added, 'It's very difficult to get people to do anything 
in England now. They take everything lying down. I do not 
know what's happened to the country; they seem to have no 
spirit left.' 

Nothing was to be gained by carrying the matter further 
and less than nothing by getting angry with the Founder 
of the League. So I bade him a restrained but decisive fare 
well, and walked out into the street with a magnificent ora 
tion surging within my bosom and only half a crown in my 
pocket. The pavements were thronged with people hurrying 
to and fro engrossed upon their petty personal interests, 
oblivious and indifferent to the larger issues of human 
government. I looked with pity not untinged with scorn 
upon these trivial-minded passers-by. Evidently it was not 
going to be so easy to guide public opinion in the right direc 
tion as I had supposed. If these weak products of democracy 
held their liberties so lightly, how would they defend the 
vast provinces and domains we had gained by centuries of 
aristocratic and oligarchic rule? For a moment I despaired 
of the Empire. Then I thought of dinner and was pallidly 
confronted with the half-a-crown! No, that would not do! 
A journey to London on a beautiful half-holiday, keyed up 
to the last point of expectation, with a speech that might 
have shaped the national destinies undelivered and undi 
gested upon my stomach, and then to go back to Sandhurst 
upon a bun and a cup of tea! That was more than forti 
tude could endure. So I did what I have never done before 
or since. I had now reached the Strand. I saw the three 
golden balls hanging over Mr. Attenborough's well-known 



shop. I had a very fine gold watch which my father had 
given me on my latest birthday. After all, the Crown Jewels 
of great kingdoms had been pawned on hard occasions. 
'How much do you want/ said the shopman after handling 
the watch respectfully. c A fiver will do/ I said. Some particu 
lars were filled up in a book. I received one of those tickets 
which hitherto I had only heard of in music-halls songs, and 
a five-pound note, and sallied forth again into the heart of 
London. I got home all right. 

The next day my Sandhurst friends all wanted to know 
how the meeting had gone off. I had imparted to them 
beforehand some of the more cogent arguments I intended 
to use. They were curious to learn how they had gone down. 
What was the meeting like? They had rather admired me 
for having the cheek to go up to make a speech champion 
ing their views to an Executive Committee of grown-up 
people, politicians, aldermen and the like. They wanted to 
know all about it. I did not admit them to my confidence. 
Speaking generally I dwelt upon the difficulties of public 
agitation in a comfortable and upon the whole contented 
country. I pointed out the importance of proceeding step by 
step, and of making each step good before the next was 
taken. The first step was to form an Executive Committee 
that had been done. The next was to draw up the consti 
tution of the League and assign the various responsibilities 
and powers this was proceeding. The third step would be a 
broad appeal to the public, and on the response to this every 
thing depended. These statements were accepted rather dubi 
ously j but what else could I do? Had I only possessed a 
newspaper of my own, I would have had my speech re 
ported verbatim on its front page, punctuated by the loud 
cheers of the Committee, heralded by arresting headlines 
and soberly sustained by the weight of successive leading 
articles. Then indeed the Entertainments Protection League 
might have made real progress. It might, in those early 
nineties, when so many things were in the making, have 



marshalled a public opinion so vigilant throughout the Eng 
lish-speaking world, and pronounced a warning so impres 
sive, that the mighty United States themselves might have 
been saved from Prohibition! Here again we see the foot 
prints of Fate, but they turned off the pleasant lawns on 
to a dry and stony highway. 

I was destined to strike another blow in this crusade. 
Mrs. Chant's campaign was not unsuccessful, indeed so men 
acing did it appear that our party thought it prudent to make 
a characteristically British compromise. It was settled that 
the offending bars were to be separated from the promenade 
by light canvas screens. Thus they would no longer be tech 
nically c m' the promenade j they would be just as far re 
moved from it in law as if they had been in the adjacent 
county^ yet means of egress and ingress of sufficient width 
might be lawfully provided, together with any reduction 
of the canvas screens necessary for sufficient ventilation. 
Thus the temples of Venus and Bacchus, though adjacent, 
would be separated, and their attack upon human frailties 
could only be delivered in a successive or alternating and 
not in a concentrated form. Loud were the hosannas which 
arose from the steadfast ranks of the Trades on the Prowl.' 
The music-hall proprietors for their part, after uttering 
howls of pain and protest, seemed to reconcile themselves 
quite readily to their lot. It was otherwise with the Sand 
hurst movement. We had not been consulted in this nefari 
ous peace. I was myself filled with scorn at its hypocrisy. 
I had no idea in those days of the enormous and unques 
tionably helpful part that humbug plays in the social life 
of great peoples dwelling in a state of democratic freedom. 
I wanted a clear-cut definition of the duties of the state and 
of the rights of the individual, modified as might be neces 
sary by public convenience and decorum. 
^ On the first Saturday night after these canvas obstruc 
tions had been placed in the Empire Promenade it hap 
pened that quite a large number of us chanced to be there. 



There were also a good many boys from the Universities 
about our own age, but of course mere bookworms, quite 
undisciplined and irresponsible. The new structures were 
examined with attention and soon became the subject of un 
favourable comment. Then some young gentleman poked 
his walking-stick through the canvas. Others imitated his 
example. Naturally I could not hang back when colleagues 
were testifying after this fashion. Suddenly a most strange 
thing happened. The entire crowd numbering some two 
or three hundred people became excited and infuriated. 
They rushed upon these flimsy barricades and tore them 
to pieces. The authorities were powerless. Amid the crack 
ing of timber and the tearing of canvas the barricades were 
demolished, and the bars were once more united with the 
promenade to which they had ministered so long. 

In these somewhat unvirginal surroundings I now made 
my maiden speech. Mounting on the debris and indeed 
partially emerging from it, I addressed the tumultuous 
crowd. No very accurate report of my words has been 
preserved. They did not, however, fall unheeded, and I 
have heard about them several times since. I discarded 
the constitutional argument entirely and appealed directly 
to sentiment and even passion, finishing up by saying 'You 
have seen us tear down these barricades to-night 5 see that 
you pull down those who are responsible for them at the 
coming election. 5 These words were received with raptur 
ous applause, and we all sallied out into the Square brand 
ishing fragments of wood and canvas as trophies or sym 
bols. It reminded me of the death of Julius Csesar when 
the conspirators rushed forth into the street waving the 
bloody daggers with which they had slain the tyrant. I 
thought also of the taking of the Bastille, with the details 
of which I was equally familiar. 

It seems even more difficult to carry forward a revolution 
than to start one. We had to catch the last train back to Sand 
hurst or be guilty of dereliction of duty. This train, which 


still starts from Waterloo shortly after midnight, conveys 
the daily toll of corpses to the London Necropolis. It ran 
only as far as Frimley near Aldershot which it reached at 
three o'clock in the morning, leaving us to drive eight or ten 
miles to the Royal Military College. On our arrival at this 
hamlet no conveyances were to be found. We therefore 
knocked up the local inn-keeper. It may well be that we 
knocked him up rather boisterously. After a considerable in 
terval in which our impatience became more manifest, the 
upper half of the door was suddenly opened, and we found 
ourselves looking down the muzzle of a blunderbuss, behind 
which stood a pale and menacing face. Things are rarely 
pushed to extremes in England. We maintained a firm pos 
ture, explained our wants and offered money. The landlord, 
first reassured and finally placated, produced an old horse 
and a still more ancient fly, and in this seven or eight of us 
made a successful journey to Camberley, and without trou 
bling the porter at the gates, reached our apartments by un 
official paths in good time for early morning parade. 

This episode made a considerable stir, and even secured 
leading articles in most of the newspapers. I was for some 
time apprehensive lest undue attention should be focussed 
upon my share in the proceedings. Certainly there was grave 
risk, for my father's name was still electric. Although natu 
rally proud of my part in resisting tyranny as is the duty 
of every citizen who wishes to live in a free country, I was 
not unaware that a contrary opinion was possible, and might 
even become predominant. Elderly people and those in 
authority cannot always be relied upon to take enlightened 
and comprehending views of what they call the indiscretions 
of youth. They sometimes have a nasty trick of singling out 
individuals and 'making examples.' Although always pre 
pared for martyrdom, I preferred that it should be post 
poned. Happily by the time my name began to be connected 
with the event, public interest had entirely died down, and 
no one at the College or the War Office was so spiteful as 




to revive it. This was one of those pieces of good luck which 
ought always to be remembered to set against an equal 
amount of bad luck when it comes along, as come it must. 
It remains only for me to record that the County Council 
Elections went the wrong way. The Progressives, as they 
called themselves, triumphed. The barricades were rebuilt 
in brick and plaster, and all our efforts went for nothing. 
Still no one can say we did not do our best. 

My course at Sandhurst soon came to an end. Instead 
of creeping in at the bottom, almost by charity, I passed 
out with honours eighth in my batch of a hundred and 
fifty. I mention this because it shows that I could learn 
quickly enough the things that mattered. It had been a 
hard but happy experience. There were only three terms, 
at the end of each of which one advanced almost automatic 
ally from junior to intermediate, and then to senior. The 
generations were so short that in a year one was a senior. 
One could feel oneself growing up almost every week. 

In December, 1894, I returned home fully qualified to 
receive the Queen's commission. In contrast with my school 
days, I had made many friends, three or four of whom 
still survive. As for the rest they are gone. The South 
African War accounted for a large proportion not only 
of my friends but of my company j and the Great War 
killed almost all the others. The few that survived have 
been pierced through thigh or breast or face by the bullets 
of the enemy. I salute them all. 

I passed out of Sandhurst into the world. It opened like 
Aladdin's Cave. From the beginning of 1895 down to the 
present time of writing I have never had time to turn round. 
I could count almost on my fingers the days when I have 
had nothing to do. An endless moving picture in which one 
was an actor. On the whole Great Fun! But the years 1895 
to 1900 which are the staple of this story exceed in vividness, 



variety and exertion anything I have known except of 
course the opening months of the Great War. 

When I look back upon them I cannot but return my 
sincere thanks to the high gods for the gift of existence. 
All the days were good and each day better than the other* 
Ups and downs, risks and journeys, but always the sense 
of motion, and the illusion of hope. Come on now all you 
young men, all over the world. You are needed more than 
ever now to fill the gap of a generation shorn by the war. 
You have not an hour to lose. You must take your places 
in Life's fighting line. Twenty to twenty-five! These are 
the years! Don't be content with things as they are. *The 
earth is yours and the fulness thereof.' Enter upon your 
inheritance, accept your responsibilities. Raise the glorious 
flags again, advance them upon the new enemies, who con 
stantly gather upon the front of the human army, and have 
only to be assaulted to be overthrown. Don't take No for 
an answer. Never submit to failure. Do not be fobbed off 
with mere personal success or acceptance. You will make all 
kinds of mistakes ; but as long as you are generous and true, 
and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously 
distress her. She was made to be wooed and won by youth. 
She has lived and thrived only by repeated subjugations. 

r 6o 



MUST now introduce the reader to a man of striking char 
acter and presence who at this point began to play an 
important part in my life. Colonel Brabazon commanded 
the 4th Hussars. This regiment had arrived at Aldershot 
from Ireland in the preceding year and was now quartered 
in the East Cavalry Barracks. Colonel Brabazon had been 
a friend of my family for many years, and I had met him 
several times during my school days. I was complimented 
by receiving as a Sandhurst cadet an invitation to dine with 
him in the regimental Mess. This was a great treat. In 
those days the Mess of a cavalry regiment presented an 
impressive spectacle to a youthful eye. Twenty or thirty 
officers, all magnificently attired in blue and gold, assembled 
round a table upon which shone the plate and trophies 
gathered by the regiment in two hundred years of sport and 
campaigning. It was like a State banquet. In an all-pervading 
air of glitter, affluence, ceremony and veiled discipline, an 
excellent and lengthy dinner was served to the strains of the 
regimental string band. I received the gayest of welcomes, 
and having it would seem conducted myself with discretion 
and modesty, I was invited again on several occasions. After 
some months my mother told me that Colonel Brabazon was 
anxious that I should go into his regiment, but that my 
father had said c No.' Indeed it appeared he still believed it 
would be possible by using his influence to secure me an in 
fantry commission after all. The Duke of Cambridge had 
expressed displeasure at my diversion from the 6oth Rifles 
and had declared that there were ways in which the diffi 
culties might, when the time came, be surmounted. 'Mean 
while/ my father had written, 'Brabazon, who I know is one 



of the finest soldiers in the Army, had no business to go and 
turn that boy's head about going into the 4th Hussars. 7 

However, the head was decidedly turned. After my 
father's last sad home-coming he could take but little inter 
est in my affairs. My mother explained to him how matters 
had arranged themselves, and he seemed quite willing, and 
even pleased, that I should become a Cavalry Officer. In 
deed, one of the last remarks he made to me was, 'Have 
you got your horses?' 

My father died on January 24 in the early morning. 
Summoned from a neighbouring house where I was sleep 
ing, I ran in the darkness across Grosvenor Square, then 
lapped in snow. His end was quite painless. Indeed he had 
long been in stupor. All my dreams of comradeship with 
him, of entering Parliament at his side and in his support, 
were ended. There remained for me only to pursue his aims 
and vindicate his memory. 

I was now in the main the master of my fortunes. My 
mother was always at hand to help and ad vise j but I was 
now in my 2ist year and she never sought to exercise 
parental control. Indeed she soon became an ardent ally, 
furthering my plans and guarding my interests with all 
her influence and boundless energy. She was still at forty 
young, beautiful and fascinating. We worked together on 
even terms, more like brother and sister than mother and 
son. At least so it seemed to me. And so it continued to the 

In March 1895 I was gazetted to the 4th Hussars. I 
joined the Regiment six weeks earlier in anticipation, and 
was immediately set with several other subalterns to the stiff 
and arduous training of a Recruit Officer. Every day long 
hours were passed in the Riding-School, at Stables or on the 



Barrack Square. I was fairly well fitted for the riding- 
school by the two long courses through which I had already 
gone 5 but I must proclaim that the 4th Hussars exceeded in 
severity anything I had previously experienced in military 

In those days the principle was that the newly-joined 
Officer was given a recruit's training for the first six months. 
He rode and drilled afoot with the troopers and received 
exactly the same instruction and training as they did. At 
the head of the file in the riding-school, or on the right of 
the squad on the Square, he had to try to set an example to 
the men. This was a task not always possible to discharge 
with conspicuous success. Mounting and dismounting from a 
bare-backed horse at the trot or canter 5 jumping a high bar 
without stirrups or even saddle, sometimes with hands 
clasped behind one's back; jogging at a fast trot with noth 
ing but the horse's hide between your knees, brought their 
inevitable share of mishaps. Many a time did I pick myself 
up shaken and sore from the riding-school tan and don 
again my little gold braided pork-pie cap, fastened on the 
chin by a boot-lace strap, with what appearance of dignity 
I could command, while twenty recruits grinned furtively 
but delightedly to see their Officer suffering the same mis 
fortunes which it was their lot so frequently to undergo. 
I had the ill-luck, at an early stage in these proceedings, to 
strain my tailor's muscle on which one's grip upon a horse 
depends. In consequence I suffered tortures. Galvanic treat 
ment was then unknown; one simply had to go on tearing 
at a lacerated muscle with the awful penalty of being 
thought a booby, if one begged off even for a day. 

The Regimental Riding Master, nicknamed c jocko,' who 
specialized in being a terrible tyrant, happened during these 
weeks to be in an exceedingly touchy temper. One of the 
senior Subalterns had inserted in the Alder shot Times as an 

advertisement: 'Major , Professor of Equitation, East 

Cavalry Barracks. Hunting taught in 12 lessons and steeple- 



chasing in 18.' This had drawn upon him a flood of ridicule 
which perhaps led him to suppose that every smile that 
ever flitted across the face of one of his riding-school class 
was due to some inward satisfaction at his expense. 

However, within measure, I am all for youth being made 
willingly to endure austerities j and for the rest it was a gay 
and lordly life that now opened upon me. Even before 
being released from the riding-school the young officers were 
often permitted to ride out with their troops at exercise or on 
route marches and even sometimes to ride serre-file 1 in 
actual drill. There is a thrill and charm of its own in the 
glittering jingle of a cavalry squadron manoeuvring at the 
trot; and this deepens into joyous excitement when the same 
evolutions are performed at a gallop. The stir of the horses, 
the clank of their equipment, the thrill of motion, the toss 
ing plumes, the sense of incorporation in a living machine, 
the suave dignity of the uniform all combine to make cav 
alry drill a fine thing in itself. 

I must explain for the benefit of the ignorant reader that 
cavalry manoeuvre in column and fight in line, and that 
cavalry drill resolves itself into swift and flexible changes 
from one formation to the other. Thus by wheeling or 
moving in echelon a front can always be presented by a 
squadron almost at any moment in any direction. The same 
principles apply to the movements of larger bodies of horse 
men; and regiments, brigades and even divisions of cavalry 
could be made to present a front in an incredibly short time 
as the preliminary to that greatest of all cavalry events 
the Charge. 

It is a shame that War should have flung all this aside in 
its greedy, base, opportunist march, and should turn instead 
to chemists in spectacles, and chauffeurs pulling the levers of 
aeroplanes or machine guns. But at Aldershot in 1895 none 

third rank of a troop which being only partially filled by super 
numeraries, interlocks with the front rank of the following troop whenever 
the squadron is in column. 




of these horrors had broken upon mankind. The Dragoon, 
the Lancer and above all, as we believed, the Hussar still 
claimed their time-honoured place upon the battlefield. War, 
which used to be cruel and magnificent, has now become cruel 
and squalid. In fact it has been completely spoilt. It is all 
the fault of Democracy and Science. From the moment that 
either of these meddlers and muddlers was allowed to take 
part in actual fighting, the doom of War was sealed. Instead 
of a small number of well-trained professionals champion 
ing their country's cause with ancient weapons and a beauti 
ful intricacy of archaic manoeuvre, sustained at every mo 
ment by the applause of their nation, we now have entire 
populations, including even women and children, pitted 
against one another in brutish mutual extermination, and 
only a set of blear-eyed clerks left to add up the butcher's 
bill. From the moment Democracy was admitted to, or 
rather forced itself upon the battlefield, War ceased to be a 
gentleman's game. To Hell with it! Hence the League of 

All the same it was a very fine thing in the 'go's to see 
General Luck the Inspector-General manoeuvre a cav 
alry division of thirty or forty squadrons as if it were one 
single unit. When this massive and splendid array assumed a 
preparatory formation and was then ordered to change front 
through an angle of perhaps 15 degrees, the outside brigade 
had to gallop two miles in a cloud of dust so thick that you 
could not see even five yards before your face, and twenty 
falls and half a dozen accidents were the features of a morn 
ing's drill. And when the line was finally formed and the 
regiment or brigade was committed to the charge, one could 
hardly help shouting in joyous wrath. 

Afterwards when we were home in barracks, these enthusi 
asms in my case were corrected by remembering that the 
Germans had twenty cavalry divisions each as imposing as 
this our only darling, of which I formed a partj and sec 
ondly by wondering what would happen if half a dozen 



spoil-sports got themselves into a hole with a maxim gun 
and kept their heads. 

Then there were splendid parades 'when Queen Victoria 
sat in her carriage at the saluting point and when the whole 
Aldershot garrison, perhaps 25,000 strong, blue and gold, 
scarlet and steel, passed before her, Horse, Foot and Artil 
lery, not forgetting the Engineers and Army Service Corps, 
in a broad and scintillating flood. It seemed very wrong that 
all these European Powers, France, Germany, Austria and 
Russia could do this same thing in their countries on the 
same day in twenty different places. I wondered why our 
Statesmen did not arrange an International Convention 
whereby each country should be represented in case of war, 
just as they are at the Olympic Games, by equal teams, and 
we by a single complete army corps which should embody 
all that was best in the race, and so settle the sovereignty of 
the world. However, the Victorian Ministers were very un 
enterprising j they missed their chance j they simply let War 
pass out of the hands of the experts and properly-trained 
persons who knew all about it, and reduced it to a mere dis 
gusting matter of Men, Money and Machinery. 

Those of us who already began to understand the sort of 
demoralisation that was going to come over War were irre 
sistibly drawn to the conclusion that the British Army would 
never again take part in a European conflict. How could we, 
when we only had about one army corps with one Cavalry 
Division together with the Militia God help them and 
the Volunteers Hurrah! ? Certainly no Jingo Lieutenant or 
Fire-eating Staff Officer in the Aldershot Command in 1895, 
even in his most sanguine moments, would have believed 
that our little army would again be sent to Europe. Yet there 
was to come a day when a Cavalry Captain Haig by name 
who drilled with us in the Long Valley this spring was to 
feel himself stinted because in a most important battle, he 
could marshal no more than forty British Divisions together 
with the First American Army Corps in all a bare six hun- 



dred thousand men and could only support them by less 
than 400 brigades of Artillery. 

I wonder often whether any other generation has seen such 
astounding revolutions of data and values as those through 
which we have lived. Scarcely anything material or estab 
lished which I was brought up to believe was permanent and 
vital, has lasted. Everything I was sure or taught to be sure 
was impossible, has happened. 

Colonel Brabazon was an impoverished Irish landlord 
whose whole life had been spent in the British Army. He 
personified the heroes of Ouida. From his entry into the 
Grenadier Guards in the early 3 6o ? s he had been in the van 
of fashion. He was one of the brightest military stars in Lon 
don society. A close lifelong friendship had subsisted between 
him and the Prince of Wales. At Court, in the Clubs, on the 
racecourse, in the hunting field, he was accepted as a most 
distinguished figure. Though he had always remained a 
bachelor, he was by no means a misogynist. As a young man 
he must have been exceptionally good-looking. He was ex 
actly the right height for a man to be. He was not actually 
six feet, but he looked it. Now, in his prime, his appearance 
was magnificent. His clean-cut symmetrical features, his 
bright grey eyes and strong jaw, were shown to the best ad 
vantage by a moustache which the Kaiser might well have 
taken as his unattainable ideal. To all this he added the airs 
and manners of the dandies of the generation before his 
own, and an inability, real or affected, to pronounce the let 
ter C R. J Apt and experienced in conversation, his remarkable 
personality was never at a loss in any company, polite or 

His military career had been long and varied. He had 
had to leave the Grenadier Guards after six years through 
straitened finances, and passed through a period of serious 


difficulty. He served as a gentleman volunteer a great 
privilege in the Ashanti Campaign of 1874. Here he so 
distinguished himself that there was a strong movement in 
high circles to restore to him his commission. This almost 
unprecedented favour was in fact accorded him. The Prince 
of Wales was most anxious that he should be appointed to 
his own regiment the 10th Hussars in those days prob 
ably the most exclusive regiment in the Army. However, as 
no vacancy was immediately available he was in the interval 
posted to an infantry regiment of the Line. To the question, 
'What do you belong to now, Brab?' he replied, C I never can 
wemember, but they have gween facings and you get at 'em 
from Waterloo.* 

Of the Stationmaster at Aldershot he inquired on one oc 
casion in later years: ' Where is the London twain?' 'It has 
gone, Colonel.' 'Gone! Bwing another .* 

Translated at length into the 10th Hussars he served 
with increasing reputation through the Afghan War in 1878 
and 1879 and through the fierce fighting round Suakim 
in 1884. As he had gained two successive brevets upon 
active service he was in army rank actually senior to the 
Colonel of his own regiment. This produced at least one 
embarrassing situation conceivable only in the British Army 
of those days. The Colonel of the 10th had occasion to find 
fault with Brabazon's squadron and went so far in his dis 
pleasure as to order it home to barracks. Brabazon was deeply 
mortified. However, a few weeks later the loth Hussars 
were brigaded for some manoeuvres with another cavalry 
regiment. Regimental seniority no longer ruled, and Braba 
zon's army rank gave him automatically the command of the 
brigade. Face to face with his own commanding officer, now 
for the moment his subordinate, Brabazon had repeated the 
same remarks and cutting sentences so recently addressed to 
him, and finished by the harsh order, 'Take your wegiment 
home, Sir!' The fashionable part of the army had been agog 
with this episode. That Brabazon had the law on his side 



could not be gainsaid. In those days men were accustomed 
to assert their rights in a rigid manner which would now 
be thought unsuitable. There were, however, two opinions 
upon the matter. 

As it was clear that his regimental seniority would never 
enable him to command the loth, the War Office had of 
fered him in 1893 ^ e command of the 4th Hussars. This 
was in itself an inevitable reflection upon the senior officers 
of that regiment. No regiment relishes the arrival of a 
stranger with the idea of 'smartening them up'} and there 
must have been a great deal of tension when this terrific 
Colonel, blazing with medals and clasps, and clad in all his 
social and military prestige, first assumed command of a 
regiment which had even longer traditions than the loth 
Hussars. Brabazon made little attempt to conciliate. On the 
contrary he displayed a masterful confidence which won not 
only unquestioning obedience from all, but intense admira 
tion, at any rate from the Captains and subalterns. Some of 
the seniors, however, were made to feel their position. c And 
what chemist do you get this champagne fwom?' he inquired 
one evening of an irascible Mess president. 

To me, apart from service matters in which he was a strict 
disciplinarian, he was always charming. But I soon discov 
ered that behind all his talk of war and sport, which together 
with questions of religion or irreligion and one or two other 
topics formed the staple of Mess conversation, there lay in 
the ColonePs mind a very wide reading. When, for instance, 
on one occasion I quoted, 'God tempers the winds to the 
shorn lamb,' and Brabazon asked, 'Where do you get that 
fwom?' I had replied with some complacency that, though 
it was attributed often to the Bible, it really occurred in 
Sterne's Sentimental Journey. 'Have you ever wead it?' he 
asked, in the most innocent manner. Luckily I was not only 
naturally truthful, but also on my guard. I admitted that I 
had not. It was it seemed one of the ColonePs special fa 


The Colonel, however, had his own rebuffs. Shortly be 
fore I joined the regiment he came into sharp collision with 
no less a personage than Sir Evelyn Wood who then com 
manded at Aldershot. Brabazon had not only introduced a 
number of minor irregularities, mostly extremely sensible, 
into the working uniform of the regiment as for instance 
chrome yellow stripes for drill instead of gold lace but he 
had worn for more than thirty years a small 'Imperial' beard 
under his lower lip. This was of course contrary to the Queen's 
Regulations Section VII. 'The chin and underlip are to be 
shaved (except by pioneers, who will wear beards).' But in 
thirty years of war and peace no superior authority had ever 
challenged Brabazon's Imperial. He had established it as a 
recognized privilege and institution of which no doubt he 
was enormously proud. No sooner had he brought his regi 
ment into the Aldershot command than Sir Evelyn Wood 
was eager to show himself no respecter of persons. Away 
went the chrome yellow stripes on the pantaloons, away went 
the comfortable serge jumpers in which the regiment was 
accustomed to drill $ back came the gold lace stripes and the 
tight-fitting cloth stable- jackets of the old regime. Forced 
to obey, the Colonel carried his complaints unofficially to the 
War Office. There was no doubt he had reason on his side. 
In fact within a year these sensible and economical innova 
tions were imposed compulsorily upon the whole army. But 
no one at the War Office or in London dared override Sir 
Evelyn Wood, armed as he was with the text of the Queen's 
Regulations. As soon as Sir Evelyn Wood learned that Bra 
bazon had criticised his decisions, he resolved upon a bold 
stroke. He sent the Colonel a written order to appear upon 
his next parade 'shaved in accordance with the regulations.' 
This was of course a mortal insult. Brabazon had no choice 
but to obey. That very night he made the sacrifice, and the 
next morning appeared disfigured before his men, who were 
aghast at the spectacle, and shocked at the tale they heard. 
The Colonel felt this situation so deeply that he never re- 



f erred to it on any occasion. Except when obliged by military 
duty, he never spoke of Sir Evelyn Wood again: 

Such was the man under whom I now had the honour to 
serve and whose friendship I enjoyed, warm and unbroken, 
through the remaining twenty years of his life. The Colonel 
was a die-hard Tory of the strictest and most robust school. 
His three main and fundamental tenets were: Protection, 
Conscription, and the revival of the Contagious Diseases Acts. 
He judged Governments and politicians according as they 
conformed or seemed likely to conform to his programme. 
But nothing in politics, not even the Free Trade contro 
versy, nor the Lloyd George budget, nor the Ulster quarrel, 
severed our relations. 

We were all delighted in the summer of 1 895 to read that 
the Radical Home Rule Government had been beaten in the 
House of Commons and that Lord Salisbury was again form 
ing an Administration. Everybody liked Lord Rosebery be 
cause he 'was thought to be patriotic. But then he had such 
bad companions! These bad companions dragged him down, 
and he was so weak, so they said, that he had to give way to 
them against his true convictions. Then too he was kept in 
office by the Irish Nationalists, who everyone knew would 
never be satisfied till they had broken up the British Em 
pire. I put in a word for John Morley, but they said he was 
one of the worst of the lot and mixed up with Fenians and 
traitors of every kind. Particular pleasure was expressed that 
the Government should have been defeated for having let 
down the supply of cordite. Supposing a war came, how 
would you fight without cordite? Someone said that really 
there was plenty of cordite, but that any stick was good 
enough to beat such dogs! Certainly the Liberals were very 
unpopular at this time in Aldershot. The General Election 
proved that the rest of the country took our view, for Lord 
Salisbury was returned with a majority of 150, and the 



Conservatives ruled the country for ten years during which 
they fought a number of the wars which form a considerable 
part of this account. Indeed they were never turned out 
until they went in for Protection, and then the Liberals came 
in and made the greatest of wars. But all that is stopped 


I was invited to the party at Devonshire House after the 
Ministerial banquets. There I found all the new Ministers 
looking very smart in their blue and gold uniforms. These 
uniforms were not so magnificent as ours, but they had a 
style about them which commended them to my eye. I talked 
especially with Mr. George. Curzon, the new Under Secretary 
of State for Foreign Affairs. He looked very splendid and 
prosperous, and received my congratulations with much af 
fability. He explained that although his post was a small 
one, yet it carried with it the representation in the House of 
Commons of the Foreign Office and all that that implied. So 
he hoped he would have a share in making the foreign policy 
instead of only defending and explaining it. There were also 
some of those poor young men who had been left outj but 
they had to smile more gaily than anyone else, and go round 
congratulating all the people who had got the jobs these 
poor ones wanted for themselves. As no one had even con 
sidered me for any of these posts, I felt free; to give rein to 

At this time Mrs. Everest died. As soon as I heard she 
was seriously ill I travelled up to London to see her. She 
lived with her sister's family in North London. She knew 
she was in danger, but her only anxiety was for me. There 
Had been a heavy shower of rain. My jacket was wet. When 
she .felt it with her hands she was greatly alarmed for fear 
I should catch cold. The jacket had to be taken off and thor 
oughly dried before she was calm again. Her only desire was 
to see my brother Jack, and this unhappily could not be ar- 



ranged. I set out for London to get a good specialist, and 
the two doctors consulted together upon the case, which was 
one of peritonitis. I had to return to Aldershot by the mid 
night train for a very early morning parade. As soon as it 
was over, I returned to her bedside. She still knew me, but 
she gradually became unconscious. Death came very easily 
to her. She had lived such an innocent and loving life of 
service to others and held such a simple faith, that she had 
no fears at all, and did not seem to mind very much. She 
had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the 
whole of the twenty years I had lived. I now telegraphed 
to the clergyman with whom she had served nearly a quarter 
of a century before. He lived in Cumberland. He had a long 
memory for faithful service. We met at the graveside. He 
had become an Archdeacon. He did not bring little Ella with 

When I think of the fate of poor old women, so many of 
whom have no one to look after them and nothing to live on 
at the end of their lives, I am glad to have had a hand in all 
that structure of pensions and insurance which no other coun 
try can rival and which is especially a help to them. 




IN the closing decade of the Victorian era the Empire had 
enjoyed so long a spell of almost unbroken peace, that 
medals and all they represented in experience and adventure 
were becoming extremely scarce in the British Army. The 
veterans of the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny were gone 
from the active list. The Afghan and Egyptian warriors of 
the early eighties had reached the senior ranks. Scarcely a 
shot had been fired in anger since then, and when I joined 
the 4th Hussars in January, 1895, scarcely a captain, hardly 
ever a subaltern, could be found throughout Her Majesty's 
forces who had seen even the smallest kind of war. Rarity 
in a desirable commodity is usually the cause of enhanced 
value $ and there has never been a time when war service 
was held in so much esteem by the military authorities or 
more ardently sought by officers of every rank. It was the 
swift road to promotion and advancement in every arm. It 
was the glittering gateway to distinction. It cast a glamour 
upon the fortunate possessor alike in the eyes of elderly gen 
tlemen and young ladies. How we young officers envied the 
senior Major for his adventures at Abu Klea! How we ad 
mired the Colonel with his long row of decorations! We 
listened with almost insatiable interest to the accounts which 
they were good enough to give us on more than one occasion 
of stirring deeds and episodes already melting into the mist 
of time. How we longed to have a similar store of memo 
ries to unpack and display, if necessary repeatedly, to a sym 
pathetic audience! How we wondered whether our chance 
would ever come whether we too in our turn would have 
battles to fight over again and again in the agreeable atmos- 



phere of the after-dinner mess table? Prowess at polo, in the 
hunting-field, or between the flags, might count for something. 
But the young soldier who had been <on active service 5 and 
'under fire' had an aura about him to which the Generals 
he served under, the troopers he led, and the girls he 
courted, accorded a unanimous, sincere, and spontaneous rec 

The want of a sufficient supply of active service was there 
fore acutely felt by my contemporaries in the circles in which 
I was now called upon to live my life. This complaint was 
destined to be cured, and all our requirements were to be 
met to the fullest extent. The danger as the subaltern re 
garded it which in those days seemed so real of Liberal 
and democratic governments making war impossible was soon 
to be proved illusory. The age of Peace had ended. There 
was to be no lack of war. There was to be enough for all. 
Aye, enough and to spare. Few indeed of the keen, aspiring 
generations of Sandhurst cadets and youthful officers who 
entered the Royal Service so light-heartedly in these and 
later years were to survive the ghastly surfeit which fate had 
in store. The little tidbits of fighting which the Indian fron 
tier and the Soudan were soon to offer, distributed by luck 
or favour, were fiercely scrambled for throughout the Brit 
ish Army. But the South African War was to attain dimen 
sions which fully satisfied the needs of pur small army. And 
after that the deluge was still to come! 

The military year was divided into a seven months' sum 
mer season of training and a five months' winter season of 
leave, and each officer received a solid block of two and a 
half months' uninterrupted repose. All my money had been 
spent on polo ponies, and as I could not afford to hunt, I 
searched the world for some scene of adventure or excite 
ment. The general peace in which mankind had for so many 
years languished was broken only in one quarter of the 
globe. The long-drawn guerrilla between the Spaniards and 
the Cuban rebels was said to be entering upon its most seri- 



ous phase. The Captain-General of Spain, the famous Mar 
shal Martinez Campos, renowned alike for victories over the 
Moors and fronunciamientos to the Spaniards, had been sent 
to the recalcitrant island ; and 80,000 Spanish reinforce 
ments were being rapidly shipped across the ocean in a su 
preme attempt to quell the revolt. Here then was fighting 
actually going on. From very early youth I had brooded 
about soldiers and war, and often I had imagined in dreams 
and day-dreams the sensations attendant upon being for the 
first time under fire. It seemed to my youthful mind that it 
must be a thrilling and immense experience to hear the 
whistle of bullets all around and to play at hazard from 
moment to moment with death and wounds. Moreover, now 
that I had assumed professional obligations in the matter, I 
thought that it might be as well to have a private rehearsal, 
a secluded trial trip, in order to make sure that the ordeal 
was one not unsuited to my temperament. Accordingly it 
was to Cuba that I turned my eyes. 

I unfolded the project to a brother subaltern Reginald 
Barnes who afterwards long commanded Divisions in 
France, and found him keen. The Colonel and the Mess 
generally looked with favour upon a plan to seek professional 
experience at a seat of war. It was considered as good or 
almost as good as a season's serious hunting, without which 
no subaltern or captain was considered to be living a respec 
table life. Thus fortified, I wrote to my father's old friend 
and Fourth Party colleague, Sir Henry Wolff, then our 
Ambassador at Madrid, asking whether he could procure us 
the necessary permissions from the Spanish military authori 
ties. The dear old gentleman, whose long-acquired influence 
at the Spanish Court was unrivalled in the Diplomatic Corps, 
of which he was the doyen, took the greatest trouble on my 
behalf. Excellent introductions, formal and personal, soon 
arrived in a packet, together with the Ambassador's assur 
ance that we had only to reach Havana to be warmly wel 
comed by the Captain-General and shown all there was to 


see. Accordingly at the beginning of November, 1895, we 
sailed for New York, and journeyed thence to Havana. 

The minds of this generation, exhausted, brutalised, mu 
tilated and bored by War, may not understand the delicious 
yet tremulous sensations with which a young British Officer 
bred in the long peace approached for the first time an actual 
theatre of operations. When first in the dim light of early 
morning I saw the shores of Cuba rise and define themselves 
from dark-blue horizons, I felt as if I sailed with Captain 
Silver and first gazed on Treasure Island. Here was a place 
where real things were going on. Here was a scene of vital 
action. Here was a place where anything might happen. 
Here was a place where something would certainly happen. 
Here I might leave my bones. These musings were dispersed 
by the advance of breakfast, and lost in the hurry of disem 

Cuba is a lovely island. Well have the Spaniards named 
it c The Pearl of the Antilles.' The temperate yet ardent 
climate, the abundant rainfall, the luxurious vegetation, the 
unrivalled fertility of the soil, the beautiful scenery all 
combined to make me accuse that absent-minded morning 
when our ancestors let so delectable a possession slip through 
their fingers. However, our modern Democracy has inher 
ited enough to keep or to cast away. 

The City and Harbour of Havana thirty-five years ago 
presented a spectacle which, though no doubt surpassed by 
its present progress, was in every respect magnificent. We 
took up our quarters in a fairly good hotel, ate a great quan 
tity of oranges, smoked a number of cigars, and presented 
our credentials to Authority. Everything worked perfectly. 
Our letters had no sooner been read than we were treated 
as an unofficial, but none the less important, mission sent at 
a time of stress by a mighty Power and old ally. The more 
we endeavoured to reduce the character of our visit, the more 
its underlying significance was appraised. The Captain-Gen 
eral was on tour inspecting various posts and garrisonsj but 



all would be arranged exactly as we wished. We should find 
the Marshal at Santa Clara; 1 the journey was quite practica 
ble j the trains were armoured; escorts travelled in special 
wagons at either end; the sides of the carriages were pro 
tected by strong plating 5 when firing broke out as was usual 
you had only to lie down on the floor of the carriage to ar 
rive safely. We started next morning. 

Marshal Martinez Campos received us affably and handed 
us over to one of his Staff Officers, a young Lieutenant, son 
of the Duke of Tetuan, by name Juan O'Donnell, who spoke 
English extremely well. I was surprised at the name, but 
was told it had become Spanish since the days of the Irish 
Brigade. O'Donnell explained that if we wished to see the 
fighting we ought to join a mobile column. Such a column 
it appeared had started from Santa Clara only that morning 
under General Valdez for Sancti Spiritus, a town about 40 
miles away beset by rebels. It was a pity we had missed it. 
We suggested that as it would only have made one march 
we could easily overtake it. Our young Spaniard shook his 
head: 'You would not get 5 miles.' ' Where, then, are the 
enemy?' we asked. c They are everywhere and nowhere,' he 
replied. 'Fifty horsemen can go where they please two 
cannot go anywhere.' However, it would be possible to in 
tercept General Valdez. We must go by train to Cienfuegos, 
and then by sea to Tuna. The railway line from Tuna to 
Sancti Spiritus was, he said, strongly guarded by block 
houses, and military trains had hitherto passed regularly. 
Thus by a journey of 150 miles we should reach Sancti Spir 
itus in three days, and General Valdez would not arrive 
there with his troops until the evening of the fourth day. 
There we could join his column and follow his further op 
erations. Horses and orderlies would be provided and the 
General would welcome us upon his staff as guests. 

We accomplished our journey with some risk, but no 
accident. Sancti Spiritus, its name notwithstanding, was a 

1 See map on page 87. 



very second-rate place and in the most unhealthy state. 
Small-pox and yellow fever were rife. We spent the night in 
a filthy, noisy, crowded tavern, and the next evening Gen 
eral Valdez and his column marched in. It was a considerable 
force: four battalions comprising about 3,000 infantry, two 
squadrons of cavalry and a mule battery. The troops looked 
fit and sturdy and none the worse for their marches. They 
were dressed in cotton uniforms which may originally have 
been white, but now with dirt and dust had toned' down to 
something very like khaki. They carried heavy packs and 
double bandoliers, and wore large straw Panama hats. They 
were warmly greeted by their comrades in the town and also, 
it seemed, by the inhabitants. 

After a respectful interval we presented ourselves at the 
GeneraPs headquarters. He had already read the telegrams 
which commended us to him, and he welcomed us most cor 
dially. Suarez Valdez was a General of Division. He was 
making a fortnight's march through the insurgent districts 
with the double purpose of visiting the townships and posts 
garrisoned by the Spaniards, and also of fighting the rebels 
wherever and whenever they could be found. He explained, 
through an interpreter, what an honour it was for him to 
have two distinguished representatives of a great and 
friendly Power attached to his column, and how highly he 
valued the moral support which this gesture of Great Britain 
implied. We said, back through the interpreter, that it was 
awfully kind of him, and that we were sure it would be aw 
fully jolly. The interpreter worked this up into something 
quite good, and the General looked much pleased. He then 
announced that he would march at daybreak. The town was 
too full of disease for him to stay for one unnecessary hour. 
Our horses would be ready before daylight. In the mean 
while he invited us to dinner. 

Behold next morning a distinct sensation in the life of a 
young officer! It is still dark, but the sky is paling. We are 
in what a brilliant though little-known writer has called c The 



dim mysterious temple of the Dawn.' 1 We are on our horses, 
in uniform 5 our revolvers are loaded. In the dusk and half- 
light, long files of armed and laden men are shuffling off 
towards the enemy. He may be very nearj perhaps he is 
waiting for us a mile away. We cannot tell 5 we know noth 
ing of the qualities either of our friends or foes. We have 
nothing to do with their quarrels. Except in personal self- 
defence we can take no part in their combats. But we feel it 
is a great moment in our lives in fact, one of the best we 
have ever experienced. We think that something is going to 
happen 5 we hope devoutly that something will happen} yet 
at the same time we do not want to be hurt or killed. What 
is it then that we do want? It is that lure of youth adven 
ture, and adventure for adventure's sake. You might call it 
tomfoolery. To travel thousands of miles with money one 
could ill afford, and get up at four o'clock in the morning 
in the hope of getting into a scrape in the company of per 
fect strangers, is certainly hardly a rational proceeding. Yet 
we knew there were very few subalterns in the British Army 
who would not have given a month's pay to sit in our sad 

However, nothing happened. Daylight slowly broadened, 
and the long Spanish column insinuated itself like a snake 
into the endless forests and undulations of a vast, lustrous 
landscape dripping with moisture and sparkling with sun 
shine. We marched about 8 miles, and then, it being near 
nine o'clock and fairly open country having been reached, a 
halt was called for breakfast and the siesta. Breakfast was 
an important meal. The infantry lighted fires to cook their 
food; the horses were off-saddled and put to graze; and cof 
fee and a stew were served at a table to the staff. It was a 
picnic. The general's aide-de-camp at length produced a long 
metal bottle in which he made a beverage which he described 
as 'runcotelle.' It is only in later years that the meaning of 
this expression, which I so well remember, has been, revealed 

1 Macka7 > Twenty-one Days in India. 



to me. It was undoubtedly a c Rum Cocktail.' Whatever its 
name, it was extremely good. By this time hammocks had 
been slung between the trees of a thicket. Into these ham 
mocks we were now enjoined to retire. The soldiers and 
regimental officers extended themselves upon the ground 
after, I trust, taking the necessary military precautions, and 
every one slept in the shade for about four hours. 

At two o'clock the siesta was over. Bustle arose in the si 
lent midday bivouac. At three in the afternoon we were once 
more on the way, and marched four hours at a speed of cer 
tainly not less than 2% miles an hour. As dusk was falling we 
reached our camping ground for the night. The column had 
covered 1 8 or 19 miles, and the infantry did not seem in the 
least fatigued. These tough Spanish peasants, sons of the 
soil, could jog along with heavy loads over mere tracks with 
an admirable persistence. The prolonged midday halt was 
like a second night's rest to them. 

I have no doubt that the Romans planned the time-table 
of their days far better than we do. They rose before the sun 
at all seasons. Except in war time we never see the dawn. 
Sometimes we see sunset. The message of the sunset is sad 
ness $ the message of the dawn is hope. The rest and the 
spell of sleep in the middle of the day refresh the human 
frame far more than a long night. We were not made by 
Nature to work, or even to play, from eight o'clock in the 
morning till midnight. We throw a strain upon our system 
which is unfair and improvident. For every purpose of busi 
ness or pleasure, mental or physical, we ought to break our 
days and our marches into two. When I was at the Admi 
ralty in the War, I found I could add nearly two hours to 
my working effort by going to bed for an hour after lunch 
eon. The Latins are wiser and closer to Nature in their way 
of living than the Anglo-Saxons or Teutons. But they dwell 
in superior climates. 

Following this routine, we marched for several days, 
through wonderful country, without a sign or sound or 



sight of war. Meanwhile we got quite friendly with our 
Spanish hosts, and speaking execrable French in common, 
though from different angles, we managed to acquire some 
understanding of their views. The Chief of the Staff, Lieut.- 
Col. Benzo, for instance, on one occasion referred to the war 
'which we are fighting to preserve the integrity of our coun 
try.' I was struck by this. I had not, no doubt owing to my 
restricted education, quite realised that these other nations 
had the same sort of feeling about their possessions as we in 
England had always been brought up to have about ours. 
They felt about Cuba, it seemed, just as we felt about Ire 
land. This impressed me much. I thought it rather cheek 
that these foreigners should have just the same views and 
use the same sort of language about their country and their 
colonies as if they were British. However, I accepted the fact 
and put it in my mental larder. Hitherto I had (secretly) 
sympathised with the rebels, or at least with the rebellion; 
but now I began to see how unhappy the Spanish were at the 
idea of having their beautiful Tearl of the Antilles' torn 
away from them, and I began to feel sorry for them. 

We did not see how they could win. Imagine the cost per 
hour of a column of nearly 4,000 men wandering round and 
round this endless humid jungle; and there were perhaps a 
dozen such columns, and many smaller, continuously on the 
move. Then there were 200,000 men in all the posts and 
garrisons, or in the block-houses on the railway lines. We 
knew that Spain was not a rich country as things went then, 
We knew by what immense efforts and sacrifices she main- 
tamed more than a quarter of a million men across 5,000 
miles of saltwater a dumb-bell held at arm's length. And 
what of the enemy? We had seen nothing of them, we had 
not heard even one rifle let off; but they evidently existed. 
All these elaborate precautions and powerful forces had been 
brought into being as the result of repeated disasters. In 
these forests and mountains were bands of ragged men not 
ill supplied with rifles and ammunition, and armed above all 



with a formidable chopper-sword called a 'machete/ to 
whom war cost nothing except poverty, risk and discomfort 
and no one was likely to run short of these. Here were the 
Spaniards out-guerrillaed in their turn. They moved like 
Napoleon's convoys in the Peninsula, league after league, 
day after day, through a world of impalpable hostility, 
slashed here and there by, fierce onslaught. 

We slept on the night of November 29 in the fortified 
village of Arroyo Blanco. We had sent two battalions and 
one squadron with the main part of the convoy to carry pro 
visions to a series of garrisons. The rest of our force, num 
bering perhaps 1,700 men, were to seek the enemy and a 
fight. The 3Oth November was my 2ist birthday, and on 
that day for the first time I heard shots fired in anger, and 
heard bullets strike flesh or whistle through the air. 

There was a low mist as we moved off in the early morn 
ing, and all of a sudden the rear of the column was involved 
in firing. In those days when people got quite close together 
in order to fight, and used partly, at any rate large-bore 
rifles to fight with, loud bangs were heard and smoke-puffs 
or even flashes could be seen. The firing seemed about a fur 
long away and sounded very noisy and startling. As however 
no bullets seemed to come near me, I was easily reassured. 
I felt like the optimist 'who did not mind what happened, 
so long as it did not happen to him.' The mist hid every 
thing from view. After a while it began to lift, and I found 
we were marching through a clearing in the woods, nearly 
100 yards wide. This was called a military road, and we 
wended along it for several hours. The jungle had already 
encroached avidly upon the track, and the officers drew their 
machetes and cut down the branches or, in sport, cut in half 
the great water-gourds which hung from them and dis 
charged a quart of cold crystal liquid upon the unwary. 

On this day when we halted for breakfast every man sat 
by his horse and ate what he had in his pocket. I had been 
provided with half a skinny chicken. I was engaged in gnaw- 



ing the drumstick when suddenly, close at hand, almost in 
our faces it seemed, a ragged volley rang out from the edge 
of the forest. The horse immediately behind me, not my 
horse gave a bound. There was excitement and commo 
tion. A party of soldiers rushed to the place whence the vol 
ley had been fired, and of course found nothing except a few 
empty cartridge cases. Meanwhile I had been meditating 
upon the wounded horse. It was a chestnut. The bullet had 
struck between his ribs, the blood dripped on the ground, 
and there was a circle of dark red on his bright chestnut coat 
about a foot wide. He hung his head, but did not fall. Evi 
dently however he was going to die, for his saddle and bridle 
were soon taken off him. As I watched these proceedings I 
could not help reflecting that the bullet which had struck 
the chestnut had certainly passed within a foot of my head. 
So at any rate I had been 'under fire.' That was something. 
Nevertheless, I began to take a more thoughtful view of our 
enterprise than I had hitherto done. 

All the next day we pursued the trail. The woods which 
before had borne a distant resemblance to an English covert, 
now gave place to forests of bottle-stemmed palm trees of 
all possible sizes and most peculiar shapes. Three or four 
hours of this sort of country led us again to more open 
ground, and after fording the river we halted for the night 
near a rude cabin which boasted a name on the map. It was 
hot, and my companion and I persuaded two of the younger 
staff officers to come with us and bathe in the river which 
encircled our bivouac on three sides. The water was delight 
ful, being warm and clear, and the spot very beautiful. We 
were dressing on the bank when suddenly we heard a shot 
fired at no great distance. Another and another followed, and 
then came a volley. The bullets whizzed over our heads. It 
was evident that an attack of some sort was in progress. We 
pulled on our clothes anyhow, and retired along the river as 
gracefully as might be and returned to the General's head 
quarters. When we arrived, there was a regular skirmish go- 



ing on half a mile away, and the bullets were falling all 
over the camp. The rebels were armed mainly with Reming 
tons, and the deep note of their pieces contrasted strangely 
with the shrill rattle of the magazine rifles of the Spaniards. 
After about half an hour the insurgents had had enough, and 
went off carrying away with them the wounded and dead 
with which it was hoped they were not unprovided. 

We dined undisturbed in the verandah and retired to our 
hammocks in the little barn. I was soon awakened by firing. 
Not only shots but volleys resounded through the night. A 
bullet ripped through the thatch of our hut, another wounded 
an orderly just outside. I should have been glad to get out 
of my hammock and lie on the ground. However, as no one 
else made a move, I thought it more becoming to stay where 
I was. I fortified myself by dwelling on the fact that the 
Spanish officer whose hammock was slung between me and 
the enemy's fire was a man of substantial physique $ indeed 
one might almost have called him fat. I have never been 
prejudiced against fat men. At any rate I did not grudge 
this one his meals. Gradually I dropped asleep. 

After a disturbed night, the column started early in the 
morning. A mist gave cover to the rebel marksmen, who 
saluted us as soon as we got across the river with a well- 
directed fire. The enemy, falling back before us, took ad 
vantage of every position. Though not very many men were 
hit, the bullets traversed the entire length of the column, 
making the march very lively for everybody. At eight 
o'clock the head of the Spanish column debouched from the 
broken ground into open country. A broad grass ride with a 
wire fence on one side and a row of little stunted trees on 
the other ran from the beginning of the plain to the enemy's 
line. On each side of the ride were broad fields of rank grass, 
waist-high. Half-way up the ride, which was about a mile 
long, and on the right-hand side, was a grove of about a hun 
dred palm trees. At the end of the ride and at right angles 
to it was a low, long hill, surmounted by a rail fence and 



backed by the dense forests. This was the enemy's position, 
which the General resolved immediately to attack. 

The tactics were simple. As the leading Spanish battalion 
got clear of the broken ground, two companies were thrown 
forward on each flank and extended. The cavalry went to 
the right of the ride and the artillery proceeded up the centre. 
The General, his staff and his two British visitors, advanced 
solemnly up the ride about 50 yards in the rear of the firing 
line. The second battalion followed the guns in column of 
companies. For 300 yards there was no firing. Then from 
the distant crest line came a lot of little puffs of smoke, fol 
lowed immediately by the report of the insurgent rifles. 
Twice this happened, and then the enemy's fire became con 
tinuous and spread right and left along his whole position. 
The Spanish infantry now began to reply and advanced con 
tinually. The firing on both sides became heavy. There were 
sounds about us sometimes like a sigh, sometimes like a 
whistle, and at others like the buzz of an offended hornet. 
The General and his staff rode forward until the smoke- 
crested crackling fence was only four or five hundred yards 
away. Here we halted, and sitting mounted, without the 
slightest cover or concealment, watched the assault of the 
infantry. During this period the air was full of whizzings, 
and the palm trees smitten by the bullets yielded resounding 
smacks and thuds. The Spaniards were on their mettle j and 
we had to do our best to keep up appearances. It really 
seemed very dangerous indeed, and I was astonished to see 
how few people were hit amid all this clatter. In our group 
of about twenty, only three or four horses and men were 
wounded, and not one killed. Presently, to my relief, the 
sound of the Mauser volleys began to predominate, and the 
rebel fire to slacken, till it finally ceased altogether. For a 
moment I could see figures scurrying to the shelter of the 
woods, and then came silence. The infantry advanced and 
occupied the enemy's position. Pursuit was impossible owing 
to the impenetrable jungle. 



As our column had now only one day's rations left, we 
withdrew across the plain to La Jicotea. Spanish honour and 
our own curiosity alike being satisfied, the column returned 
to the coast, and we to England. We did not think the Span 
iards were likely to bring their war in Cuba to a speedy end. 



IN the spring of 1896 the 4th Hussars marched to Houns- 
low and Hampton Court preparatory to sailing for India 
in the autumn. At Hounslow we yielded up our horses to 
some home-coming regiment, so that all cavalry training 
came to an end. The regiment would remain in the East for 
twelve or fourteen years, and officers were given the fullest 
leave and facilities for arranging their affairs. Before our 
horses departed we had a final parade on Hounslow Heath 
at which Colonel Brabazon, whose command was expiring, 
took leave of the regiment in a brief soldierly speech marked 
by distinction of phrasing. 

I now passed a most agreeable six months , in fact they 
formed almost the only idle spell I have ever had. I was 
able to live at home with my mother and go down to Houns 
low Barracks two or three times a week by the Under 
ground Railway. We played polo at Hurlingham and Rane- 
lagh. The Roehampton grounds had not then come into 
existence. I had now five quite good ponies, and was con 
sidered to show promise. I gave myself over to the amuse 
ments of the London Season. In those days English Society 
still existed in its old form. It was a brilliant and powerful 
body, with standards of conduct and methods of enforcing 
them now altogether forgotten. In a very large degree every 
one knew every one else and who they were. The few hun 
dred great families who had governed England for so many 
generations and had seen her rise to the pinnacle of her 
glory, were inter-related to an enormous extent by marriage. 
Everywhere one met friends and kinsfolk. The leading 
figures of Society were in many cases the leading statesmen 
in Parliament, and also the leading sportsmen on the Turf. 


Lord Salisbury was accustomed scrupulously to avoid calling 
a Cabinet when there was racing at Newmarket, and the 
House of Commons made a practice of adjourning for the 
Derby. In those days the glittering parties at Lansdowne 
House, Devonshire House or Stafford House comprised all 
the elements which made a gay and splendid social circle in 
close relation to the business of Parliament, the hierarchies 
of the Army and Navy, and the policy of the State. Now 
Lansdowne House and Devonshire House have been turned 
into hotels, flats and restaurants} and Stafford House has 
become the ugliest and stupidest museum in the world, in 
whose faded saloons Socialist Governments drearily dispense 
the public hospitality. 

But none of these shadows had fallen across London in 
1896. On the contrary, all minds were turning to the Dia 
mond Jubilee in the coming year. I moved from one de 
lightful company and scene to another, and passed the week 
ends in those beautiful places and palaces which were then 
linked by their actual owners with the long triumphant his 
tory of the United Kingdom. I am glad to have seen, if only 
for a few months, this vanished world. The picture which 
remains in my mind's eye is the Duchess of Devonshire's 
Fancy Dress Ball in 1897. ^ reproduced the scenes upon 
which Disraeli dilated in his novels. Indeed it revived one 
o his most celebrated descriptions j for outside in the Green 
Park large crowds of people had gathered in the summer 
night to watch the arriving and departing guests, to listen 
to the music, and perhaps to meditate upon the gulf which 
in those days separated the rulers and the ruled. 

When in 1920 M. Paul Cambon brought to an end his 
long, memorable mission to the Court of St. James's, he was 
good enough to come to luncheon at my house. The talk 
turned upon the giant events through which we had passed 
and the distance the world had travelled since the begin 
ning of the century. c ln the twenty years I have been here,' 
said the aged Ambassador, 'I have witnessed an English 



Revolution more profound and searching than the French 
Revolution itself. The governing class have been almost 
entirely deprived of political power and to a very large 
extent of their property and estates j and this has been ac 
complished almost imperceptibly and without the loss of a 
single life.' I suppose this is true. 

Lilian, widow of my uncle the 8th Duke of Marlborough, 
the daughter of a Commodore in the American navy, and 
very wealthy by an earlier marriage, had recently married in 
third wedlock Lord William Beresford. He was the young 
est of Lord Waterf ord's three brothers, each of whom was a 
man of mark. The eldest, 'Charlie,' was the famous admiral. 
The second, Marcus, made a great place for himself in so 
ciety and on the Turf 5 and the third 'Bill,' the soldier, had 
won the Victoria Cross in Zululand. All my life until they 
died I kept coming across these men. 

Lord William and Lilian, Duchess, had married in riper 
years; but their union was happy, prosperous and even fruit 
ful. They settled down at the beautiful Deepdene near 
Dorking, and bade me visit them continually. I took a strong 
liking to Bill Beresford. He seemed to have every quality 
which could fascinate a cavalry subaltern. He was a man 
of the world acquainted with every aspect of clubland and 
society. For long years he had been military secretary both 
to Lord Dufferin and Lord Lansdowne, successive Viceroys 
of India. He was a grand sportsman who had lived his whole 
life in companionship with horses. Polo, pig-sticking, pony- 
racing, horse-racing, together with shooting big game of 
every kind, had played a constant part in his affairs. As a 
young officer of the I2th Lancers he had won a large bet by 
walking after dinner from the Blues Mess at Knightsbridge 
to the cavalry barracks at Hounslow; there catching a badger 
kept by the loth Hussars and carrying it back in a bag on his 
shoulders to the expectant Mess at Knightsbridge, in an 


exceedingly short time considering the distance. There was 
nothing in sport or in gambling about sport which he had 
not tasted. Lastly, he was an officer who had served in three 
or four wars, and who had in circumstances of forlorn hope 
rescued a comrade from Zulu assegais and bullets. His 
opinions about public affairs, though tinged with an official 
hue, were deeply practical, and on matters of conduct and 
etiquette they were held by many to be decisive. 

Thus I paid frequent visits to Deepdene with its comfort 
and splendour, and I was never tired of listening to his wis 
dom or imparting my own. Always do I remember his dec 
laration that there would never be another war between 
civilized peoples. 'Often/ he said, 'have I seen countries 
come up to the very verge, but something always happens 
to hold them back.' There was too much good sense in the 
world, he thought, to let such a hideous thing as that break 
out among polite nations. I did not accept this as conclusive; 
but it weighed with me, and three or four times when 
rumours of war filled the air, I rested myself upon it, and 
three or four times I saw it proved to be sure and true. It 
was the natural reflection of a life lived in the Victorian Age'. 
However, there came a time when the world got into far 
deeper waters than Lord William Beresford or his con 
temporaries had ever plumbed. 

It was at Deepdene in 1896 that I first met Sir Bindon 
Blood. This general was one of the most trusted and ex 
perienced commanders on the Indian frontier. He was my 
host's life-long friend. He had come home fresh from his 
successful storming of the Malakand Pass in the autumn of 
1895. If future trouble broke out on the Indian frontier, he 
was sure to have a high command. He thus held the key to 
future delights, I made good friends with him. One Sunday 
morning on the sunny lawns of Deepdene I extracted from 
the general a promise that if ever he commanded another ex 
pedition on the Indian frontier, he would let me come with 


From a photograph by Elliott and Fry 



I sustained one disturbing experience at Deepdene. 1 was 
invited, and it was a great honour for a 2nd lieutenant, to 
join a week-end party given to the Prince of Wales. Colonel 
Brabazon was also among the guests. I realized that I must 
be upon my best behaviour: punctual, subdued, reserved, 
in short display all the qualities with which I am least en 
dowed. I ought to have caught a six o'clock train to Dorking 5 
but I decided to travel by the 7.15 instead. This was running 
things very fine, but it was not until my journey was half 
completed that I realised that I should be almost certainly 
late for dinner. The train was due to arrive at 8.18, and then 
there would be ten minutes' drive from the station. So I 
proceeded, much to the concern of the gentleman who shared 
my carriage, to dress in the train between the stations. The 
train was horribly slow and seemed to lose a few minutes at 
each stop. Of course it stopped at every station. It was twenty 
to nine before I reached Dorking. I nipped out of the car 
riage to find a servant on the platform evidently disturbed. 
I jumped into the brougham and saw by the speed at which 
the two horses were being urged that a serious crisis awaited 
me at my destination. However, I thought, C I will slip in and 
take my place almost unnoticed at the table, and make my 
apologies afterwards.' 

When I arrived at Deepdene, I found the entire company 
assembled in the drawing-room. The party it seemed without 
me would be only thirteen. The prejudice of the Royal Fam 
ily of those days against sitting down thirteen is well known. 
The Prince had refused point-blank to go in, and would not 
allow any rearrangement of two tables to be made. He had, 
as was his custom, been punctual to the minute at half-past 
eight. It was now twelve minutes to nine. There, in this large 
room, stood this select and distinguished company in the 
worst of tempers, and there on the other hand was I, a young 
boy asked as a special favour and compliment. Of course 
I had a perfectly good explanation. Oddly enough, it was one 
that I have had to use on more than one occasion since. I had 



not started soon enough! I put it aside. I stammered a few 
words of apology, and advanced to make my bow. 'Don't 
they teach you to be punctual in your regiment, Winston?' 
said the Prince in his most severe tone, and then looked acid 
ly at Colonel Brabazon, who glowered. It was an awful 
moment! We went into dinner two by two and sat down an 
unexceptionable fourteen. After about a quarter of an hour 
the Prince, who was a naturally and genuinely kind-hearted 
man, put me at my ease again by some gracious chaffing 

I do think unpunctuality is a vile habit, and all my life I 
have tried to break myself of it. 'I have never been able,' 
said Dr. Welldon to me some years later, 'to understand the 
point of view of persons who make a practice of being ten 
minutes late for each of a series of appointments throughout 
the day.' I entirely agree with this dictum. The only straight 
forward course is to cut out one or two of the appointments 
altogether and so catch up. But very few men have the 
strength of mind to do this. It is better that one notability 
should be turned away expostulating . from the doorstep, 
than that nine just deputations should each fume for ten 
minutes in a stuffy ante-room. 

In April there occurred in South Africa an event which 
seems to me when I look back over my map of life to be a 
fountain of ill. Lord Salisbury had been returned the sum 
mer before with a Conservative majority of 150. He looked 
forward to a reign limited only by the Septennial Act. He 
set before himself as his main task the wiping out of Mr. 
Gladstone's disgrace in the Soudan when General Gordon 
was murdered, and of his surrender in South Africa after our 
defeat at Majuba Hill. He proceeded upon both these 
courses with slow, sure steps and with the utmost cautious 
ness. He carefully fostered peace in Europe, and kept every 
thing as quiet as possible at home. When Russian expansion 



in the Far East threatened the interests of Britain and the 
life of Japan, he was not above beating a retreat. He allowed 
the British China Fleet to be ordered out of Port Arthur by 
the Russians. He put up with the mockery which the Liberal 
Opposition of those days somewhat incongruously directed 
upon his pusillanimity. When the Olney Note about Vene 
zuela virtually an ultimatum arrived from the United 
States, he sent the soft answer which turned away wrath. 
He confined his purposes to the British Empire. He kept the 
board clear for the Soudan and the Transvaal. 

In this latter sphere Mr. Chamberlain was also active. The 
great 'Joe,' having kept Lord Salisbury in power from 1886 
till 1892, had been the spear-point of the attacks which in 
1895 had driven the Liberals from their brief spell of office. 
He had at last decided to join Lord Salisbury's new Ad 
ministration ; and the Colonial Office, which in Mid-Vic 
torian times had been considered a minor appointment, be 
came in his hands the main creative instrument of national 
policy. Lord Salisbury, moving ponderously forward to 
wards the general squaring of accounts with the Khalifa at 
Khartoum and with President Kruger at Pretoria, found in 
the South African business a reinforcing and indeed over 
riding impulse from the Radical-Imperialist of Birmingham. 

Apart from these personal and temperamental currents, 
the tide of events in South Africa carried everything steadily 
forward towards a crisis. The development of deep-level 
gold-mining in the Rand had in a few years made Johannes 
burg a recognizable factor not only in British, but in world 
wide financial and economic affairs. The republic of Boer 
farmers, hitherto content to lead a pastoral life in the lonely 
regions into which their grandfathers had emigrated, now 
found themselves possessed of vast revenues from gold 
mines and responsible for a thriving modern city with a very- 
large and rapidly growing polyglot population. A strong, 
capable and ambitious organism of government grew up at 
Pretoria. It became the magnet of Dutch aspirations through- 



out South Africa. It nourished itself by taxing the golden 
spoil which was drawn in ever-growing volume to the sur 
face of the great Banket Reef. It reached out to Holland and 
Germany for European support and relationships. Behind all 
lay the unmeasured fighting strength of fifty or sixty thou 
sand fierce, narrow, prejudiced, devout Boer farmers, con 
stituting the finest mass of rifle-armed horsemen ever seen, 
and the most capable mounted warriors since the Mongols. 

The new inhabitants of Johannesburg the Outlanders, 
as they were called in whom British elements predomin 
ated, were dissatisfied with the bad and often corrupt ad 
ministration of the Boer Government 5 and still more so with 
its heavy and increasing taxes. They proclaimed the old 
watchword about ( No taxation without representation.' They 
demanded votes. But since their numbers would have 
swamped the Boer regime, and replaced the Transvaal sov 
ereignty in those British hands from which it had been 
wrested in 1881, their rightful demand could by no means 
be conceded. 

Mr. Chamberlain, with Lord Salisbury following steadily 
on behind, championed the Cause of the Outlanders. On 
paper and for democratic purposes the case was overwhelm 
ing. But you can never persuade anyone by reasonable 
argument to give up his skin. The old inhabitants of the 
* Transvaal were not going to yield their autonomy or any 
effective portion of it to the newcomers, however numerous 
, or influential they might become. They intended by taxing 
them to procure the necessary means for keeping them in 
subjection. If the quarrel should come to actual fighting, 
President Kruger and * his colleagues saw no reason why 
Europe should not intervene on their behalf or why they 
should not become masters of the whole of South Africa. 
They too had a good case. Had they not trekked into the 
wilderness to avoid British rule, with its perpetual inter 
ference between them and their native subjects and servants? 
If England could use the language of c the Boston tea-party/ 


the Boers felt like the Southern planters on the eve of the 
War of Secession. They declared that the long arm of British 
Imperialism, clutching for gold, had pursued them even into 
their last refuges; and Mr. Chamberlain rejoined, in effect, 
that they were refusing to give civil rights to the modern 
productive elements who were making nine-tenths of the 
wealth of their country, because they were afraid they would 
no longer be allowed to larrup their own Kaffirs. Evil 

Mr. Cecil Rhodes was Chairman and creator of the Char 
tered Company. He was also with a considerable measure of 
Dutch support, Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. Dr. 
Jameson was an administrator of the Company serving under 
him. Jameson a man of strong and impulsive personality 
had gathered a force of 600 or 700 men at Mafeking so 
that if the Outlanders rose in rebellion to gain their civil and 
political liberties, as they frequently threatened to do, he 
could if necessary, if Mr. Rhodes were favourable and if 
the British Government approved, march rapidly across the 
150 miles from Mafeking to Johannesburg and prevent 
needless bloodshed. Side by side with this there was an actual 
conspiracy in Johannesburg to demand by force the rights of 
citizenship for the Outlanders. No money was lacking, for 
the conspirators included the leading proprietors of the gold 
mines. In the main they were supported though rather 
luke-warmly by most of their employees and by the non- 
Dutch population of Johannesburg, which already in num 
bers exceeded the whole of the rest of the Transvaal. On an 
April morning a provisional government was formed in 
Johannesburg and Dr. Jameson with 700 horsemen and two 
guns started out across the veldt toward the city. 

This event shook Europe and excited the whole world. 
The Kaiser sent his famous telegram to President Kruger 
and ordered German marines who happened to be on the 
spot to disembark at Delagoa Bay. Great Britain was cen 
sured in unmeasured terms in every country. The Boer com- 



mandos, who had long been held in readiness, easily sur 
rounded Dr. Jameson and his force, and after a sharp fight 
forced them to surrender. At the same time other large 
Transvaal forces quelled the rebellion in Johannesburg and 
arrested all the leaders and millionaires concerned in it. 
When the first news of Dr. Jameson's Raid reached Eng 
land, his action was immediately disavowed by the British 
Government. Cecil Rhodes at Cape Town laconically re 
marked, c He has upset my applecart. 3 Lord Salisbury in 
voked all the resources of his patient and powerful diplomacy 
to allay resentment. The Johannesburg ring-leaders having 
been sentenced to death, were allowed to ransom themselves 
for enormous sums. The Jameson raiders were delivered up 
by the Boers to British justice, and their Chief and his lieu 
tenants were tried and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. 
A strict enquiry was made under the guidance of the Lib 
eral Party to ascertain what degree of complicity (if any) 
attached to Mr. Chamberlain, or to Mr. Rhodes. This en 
quiry took a long time, and in the end arrived at no definite 
conclusion 5 and the affair gradually died down. It left be 
hind it, however, a long succession of darkening conse 
quences. British reputation throughout the world had re 
ceived a grievous wound. The Dutch hurled Cecil Rhodes 
from power in the Cape Colony. The British nation took the 
German Emperor's telegram as a revelation of a hostile 
mood, and they never forgot it. The Emperor for his part, 
seeing himself completely powerless in the face of British 
sea power, turned his mind to the construction of a German 
fleet. The entire course of South African politics was turned 
away from peaceful channels. The British colonists looked 
to the Imperial Government for aidj and the Dutch race 
throughout the sub-continent rallied around the standards of 
the two Boer republics. The British Government gathered 
themselves together after their disastrous set-back, while the 
Transvaal taxed the Outlanders all the more and began to 
arm heavily out of the proceeds. All the causes of the quarrel 



were inflamed, and their trial was referred to a far more im 
portant court. 

During this vivid summer my mother gathered constantly 
around her table politicians of both parties, and leading 
figures in literature and art, together with the most loVely 
beings on whom the eye could beam. On one occasion, how 
ever, she carried her catholicity too far* Sir John Willough- 
by, one of the Jameson raiders then on bail awaiting trial 
in London, was one of our oldest friends. In fact it was he 
who had first shown me how to arrange my toy cavalry 
soldiers in the proper formation of an advanced guard. Re 
turning from Hounslow, I found him already arrived for 
luncheon. My mother was late. Suddenly the door opened 
and Mr. John Morley was announced. I scented trouble 5 but 
boldly presented them to each other. Indeed no other course 
was possible. John Morley drew himself up, and without 
extending his hand made a stiff little bow. Willoughby stared 
unconcernedly without acknowledging it. I squirmed in 
wardly, and endeavoured to make a pretence of conversation 
by asking commonplace questions of each alternately. Pres 
ently to my great relief my mother arrived. She was not 
unequal to the occasion, which was a serious one. Before the 
meal was far advanced no uninformed person would have 
noticed that two out of the four gathered round the table 
never addressed one another directly. Towards the end it 
seemed to me they would not have minded doing so at all. 
But having taken up their positions they had to stick to them. 
I suspected my mother of a design to mitigate the unusual 
asperities which gathered round this aspect of our affairs. 
She wanted to reduce the Raid to the level of ordinary poli 
tics. But blood had been shedj and that makes a different 

I need scarcely say that at 21 I was all for Dr. Jameson 
and his men. I understood fairly well the causes of the dis 
pute on both sides. I longed for the day on which we should 
'avenge Majuba.' I was shocked to see our Conservative 



Government act so timidly in the crisis. I was ashamed to 
see them truckling to a misguided Liberal Opposition and 
even punishing these brave raiders, many of whom I knew 
so well. I was to learn more about South Africa in later 




THE time was now come for us to embark for the East. 
We sailed from Southampton in a trooper carrying 
about 1,200 men, and after a voyage of twenty-three days 
cast anchor in Bombay Harbour and pulled up the curtain on 
what might well have been a different planet. 

It may be imagined how our whole shipful of officers 
and men were delighted after being cooped up for nearly a 
month to see the palms and palaces of Bombay lying about 
us in a wide crescent. We gazed at them over the bulwarks 
across the shining and surf -ribbed waters. Every one wanted 
to go on shore at once and see what India was like. The de 
lays and formalities of disembarkation which oppress the or 
dinary traveller are multiplied for those who travel at the 
royal expense. However, at about three o'clock in the after 
noon orders were issued that we were to land at eight o'clock 
when it would be cool 5 and in the meantime a proportion of 
officers might go ashore independently. A shoal of tiny boats 
had been lying around us all day long, rising and falling with 
the swell. We eagerly summoned some of these. It took 
about a quarter of an hour to reach the quays of the Sassoon 
Dock. Glad I was to be there j for the lively motion of the 
skiff to which I and two friends had committed ourselves 
was fast becoming our main preoccupation. We came along 
side of a great stone wall with dripping steps and iron rings 
for hand-holds. The boat rose and fell four or five feet with 
the surges. I put out my hand and grasped at a ring; but be 
fore I could get my feet on the steps the boat swung away, 
giving my right shoulder a sharp and peculiar wrench. I 
scrambled up all right, made a few remarks of a general 
character, mostly beginning with the earlier letters of the 



alphabet, hugged my shoulder and soon thought no more 
about it. 

Let me counsel my younger readers to beware of dislo 
cated shoulders. In this, as in so many other things, it is the 
first step that counts. Quite an exceptional strain is required 
to tear the capsule which holds the shoulder joint together $ 
but once the deed is done, a terrible liability remains. Al 
though my shoulder did not actually go out, I had sustained 
an injury which was to last me my life 5 which was to cripple 
me at polo, to prevent me from ever playing tennis, and to 
be a grave embarrassment in moments of peril, violence 
and effort. Since then, at irregular intervals my shoulder has 
dislocated on the most unexpected pretexts: sleeping with 
my arm under the pillow, taking a book from the library 
shelves, slipping on a staircase, swimming, etc. Once it very 
nearly went out through a too expansive gesture in the 
House of Commons, and I thought how astonished the 
members would have been to see the speaker to whom they 
were listening, suddenly for no reason throw himself upon 
the floor in an instinctive effort to take the strain and lever 
age off the displaced arm bone. 

This accident was a serious piece of bad luck. However, 
you never can tell whether bad luck may not after all turn 
out to be good luck. Perhaps if in the charge of Omdurman 
I had been able to use a sword, instead of having to adopt 
a modern weapon like a Mauser pistol, my story might not 
have got so far as the telling. One must never forget when 
misfortunes come that it is quite possible they are saving 
one from something much worse 5 or that when you make 
some great mistake, it may very easily serve you better than 
the best-advised decision. Life is a whole, and luck is a 
whole, and no part of them can be separated from the rest. 

Let us resume our journey into what Colonel Brabazon in 
his farewell speech had called 'India, that famous appanage 
of the Bwitish Cwown.' We were sent into a rest camp at 
Poona, and arriving late in the evening passed our second 



night after landing in large double-fly tents upon a spacious 
plain. Daylight brought suave, ceremonious, turbanned ap 
plicants for the offices of butler, dressing boy, and head 
groom, which in those days formed the foundation of the 
cavalry subaltern's household. All bore trustworthy testi 
monials with them from the home-going regiment $ and 
after brief formalities and salaams laid hold of one's worldly 
possessions and assumed absolute responsibility for one's 
whole domestic life. If you liked to be waited on and re 
lieved of home worries, India thirty years ago was perfec 
tion. All you had to do was to hand over all your uniform 
and clothes to the dressing boy, your ponies to the syce, and 
your money to the butler, and you need never trouble any 
more. Your Cabinet was complete 5 each of these ministers 
entered upon his department with knowledge, experience and 
fidelity. They would devote their lives to their task. For a 
humble wage, justice, and a few kind words, there was noth 
ing they would not do. Their world became bounded by the 
commonplace articles of your wardrobe and other small 
possessions. No toil was too hard, no hours were too long, 
no dangers too great for their unruffled calm or their unfail 
ing care. Princes could live no better than we. 

Among the group of suitors at our tent appeared two or 
three syces leading polo ponies and bearing notes from their 
masters} and then arrived with some commotion a splendid 
man in a red and gold frock-coat bearing an envelope with a 
puissant crest. He was a messenger from the Governor, 
Lord Sandhurst, inviting me and my companion, Hugo 
Baring, to dine that night at Government House. Thither, 
after a long day occupied mainly in scolding the troopers for 
forgetting to wear their pith-helmets and thus risking their 
lives, we repaired, and enjoyed a banquet of glitter, pomp 
and iced champagne. His Excellency, after the health of the 
Queen-Empress had been drunk and dinner was over, was 
good enough to ask my opinion upon several matters, and 
considering the magnificent character of his hospitality, I 



thought it would be unbecoming in me not to reply fully. 
I have forgotten the particular points of British and Indian 
affairs upon which he sought my counsel 5 all I can remem 
ber is that I responded generously. There were indeed mo 
ments when he seemed willing to impart his own views j but 
I thought it would be ungracious to put him to so much 
trouble j and he very readily subsided. He kindly sent his 
aide-de-camp with us to make sure we found our way back 
to camp all right. On the whole, after forty-eight hours of 
intensive study, I formed a highly favourable opinion about 
India. Sometimes, thought I, one sees these things more 
completely at first sight. As Kinglake says, c a scrutiny so 
minute as to bring an object under an untrue angle of vision, 
is a poorer guide to a man's judgment than a sweeping 
glance which sees things in their true proportion.' We cer 
tainly felt as we dropped off to sleep the keenest realization 
of the great work which England was doing in India and of 
her high mission to rule these primitive but agreeable races 
for their welfare and our own. But almost immediately, it 
seemed, the trumpets sounded reveille and we had to catch 
the 5.10 train for our thirty-six-hour journey to Bangalore. 
The great triangular plateau of Southern India comprises 
the domains of the Nizam and the Maharajah of Mysore. 
The tranquility of these regions, together about the size of 
France, is assured in the ultimate resort by two British gar 
risons of two or three thousand troops apiece at Bangalore 
and Secunderabad. In each case there is added about double 
the number of Indian troops 5 so that sufficient forces of all 
arms are permanently available for every purpose of train 
ing and manoeuvre. The British lines or cantonments 1 are in 
accordance with invariable practice placed five or six miles 
from the populous cities which they guard j and in the inter 
vening space lie the lines of the Indian regiments. The Brit 
ish troops are housed in large, cool, colonnaded barracks. 
Here forethought and order have been denied neither time 

Pronounced c cantoonments.' 



nor space in the laying out of their plans. Splendid roads, 
endless double avenues of shady trees, abundant supplies of 
pure water j imposing offices, hospitals and institutions} 
ample parade-grounds and riding schools characterize these 
centres of the collective life of considerable white communi 

The climate of Bangalore, at more than 3,000 feet above 
sea level, is excellent. Although the sun strikes with torrid 
power, the nights except in the hottest months are cool and 
fresh. The roses of Europe in innumerable large pots at 
tain the highest perfection of fragrance and colour. Flowers, 
flowering shrubs and creepers blossom in glorious profusion. 
Snipe (and snakes) abound in the marshes, brilliant butter 
flies dance in the sunshine, and nautch-girls by the light of 
the moon. 

No quarters are provided for the officers. They draw in 
stead a lodging allowance which together with their pay and 
other incidentals fills each month with silver rupees a string 
net bag as big as a prize turnip. All around the cavalry mess 
lies a suburb of roomy one-storeyed bungalows standing in 
their own walled grounds and gardens. The subaltern re 
ceives his bag of silver at the end of each month of duty, 
canters home with it to his bungalow, throws it to his beam 
ing butler, and then in theory has no further material cares. 
It was however better in a cavalry regiment in those days to 
supplement the generous rewards of the Queen-Empress by 
an allowance from home three or four times as great. Alto 
gether we received for our services about fourteen shillings 
a day with about 3 a month on which to keep two horses. 
This, together with 500 a year paid quarterly, was my sole 
means of support: all the rest had to be borrowed at usurious 
rates of interest from the all-too-accommodating native 
bankers. Every officer was warned against these gentlemen. 
I always found them most agreeable 5 very, fat, very urbane, 
quite honest and mercilessly rapacious. All you had to do 
was to sign little bits of paper, and produce a polo pony as if 



by magic. The smiling financier rose to his feet, covered his 
face with his hands, replaced his slippers, and trotted off con 
tentedly till that day three months. They only charged two 
$er cent, a month and made quite a good living out of it, 
considering they hardly ever had a bad debt. 

We three, Reginald Barnes, Hugo Baring and I, pooling 
all our resources, took a palatial bungalow, all pink and 
white, with heavy tiled roof and deep verandahs sustained 
by white plaster columns, wreathed in purple bougainvillea. 
It stood in a compound or grounds of perhaps two acres. We 
took over from the late occupant about a hundred and fifty 
splendid standard roses: Marechal Niel, La France, Gloire 
de Dijon, etc. We built a large tiled barn with mud walls, 
containing stabling for thirty horses and ponies. Our three 
butlers formed a triumvirate in which no internal dissensions 
ever appeared. We paid an equal contribution into the pot; 
and thus freed from mundane cares, devoted ourselves to the 
serious purpose of life. 

This was expressed in one word Polo. It was upon this, 
apart from duty, that all our interest was concentrated. But 
before you could play polo, you must have ponies. We had 
formed on the voyage a regimental polo club, which in re 
turn for moderate but regular subscriptions from all the 
officers (polo-players and non-polo-players alike) offered 
substantial credit facilities for the procuring of these indis 
pensable allies. A regiment coming from home was never 
expected to count in the Indian polo world for a couple of 
years. It took that time to get a proper stud of ponies to 
gether. However, the president of our polo club and the 
Senior Officers, after prolonged and anxious discussions, 
determined upon a bold and novel stroke. The Bycullah 
stables at Bombay form the main emporium through which 
Arab houses and ponies are imported to India. The Poona 
Light Horse, a native regiment strongly officered by British, 
had in virtue of its permanent station an obvious advantage 
in the purchase of Arabian ponies. On our way through 

1 06 


Poona we had tried their ponies, and had entered into deep 
ly important negotiations with them. Finally it was decided 
that the regimental polo club should purchase the entire 
polo stud of twenty-five ponies possessed by the Poona Light 
Horse 5 so that these ponies should form the nucleus around 
which we could gather the means of future victory in the 
Inter-Regimental Tournament. I can hardly describe the 
sustained intensity of purpose with which we threw our 
selves into this audacious and colossal undertaking. Never in 
the history of Indian polo had a cavalry regiment from 
Southern India won the Inter-Regimental cup. We knew 
it would take two or three years of sacrifice, contrivance and 
effort. But if all other diversions were put aside, we did not 
believe that success was beyond our compass. To this task 
then we settled down with complete absorption. 

I must not forget to say that there were of course also a 
great many military duties. Just before dawn, every morn 
ing, one was awakened by a dusky figure with a clammy hand 
adroitly lifting one's chin and applying a gleaming razor to 
a lathered and defenceless throat. By six o'clock the regiment 
was on parade, and we rode to a wide plain and there drilled 
and manoeuvred for an hour and a half. We then returned to 
baths at the bungalow and breakfast in the mess. Then at 
nine stables and orderly room till about half-past ten; then 
home to the bungalow before the sun attained its fiercest ray. 
All the distances in the spread-out cantonment were so great 
that walking was impossible. We cantered on hacks from one 
place to another. But the noonday sun asserted his tyrannical 
authority, and long before eleven o'clock all white men were 
in shelter. We nipped across to luncheon at half-past one in 
blistering heat and then returned to sleep till five o'clock. 
Now the station begins to live again. It is the hour of Polo. 
It is the hour for which we have been living all day long. 
I was accustomed in those days to play every chukka I 
could get into. The whole system was elaborately organized 
for the garrison during the morning 3 and a smart little peon 



collected the names of all the officers together with the 
number of chukkas they wished to play. These were aver 
aged out so as to secure 'the greatest good of the greatest 
number.' I very rarely played less than eight and more 
often ten or twelve. 

As the shadows lengthened over the polo ground, we 
ambled back perspiring and exhausted to hot baths, rest, 
and at 8.30 dinner, to the strains of the regimental band and 
the clinking of ice in well-filled glasses. Thereafter those 
who were not so unlucky as to be caught by the Senior 
Officers to play a tiresome game then in vogue called 'Whist,' 
sat smoking in the moonlight, till half-past ten or eleven 
at the latest signalled the 'And so to bed.' Such was 'the long, 
long Indian day' as I knew it for three years } and not such 
a bad day either. 



IT was not until this winter of 1896, when I had almost 
completed my twenty-second year, that the desire for 
learning came upon me. I began to feel myself wanting in 
even the vaguest knowledge about many large spheres of 
thought. I had picked up a wide vocabulary and had a liking 
for words and for the feel of words fitting and falling into 
their places like pennies in the slot. I caught myself using a 
good many words the meaning of which I could not define 
precisely. I admired these words, but was afraid to use them 
for fear of being absurd. One day, before I left England, a 
friend of mine had said: 'Christ's gospel was the last word in 
Ethics.' This sounded good; but what were Ethics? They 
had never been mentioned to me at Harrow or Sandhurst* 
Judging from the context I thought they must mean 'the 
public school spirit,' 'playing the game,' 'esprit de corps,* 
'honourable behaviour,' 'patriotism,' and the like. Then 
someone told me that Ethics were concerned not merely with 
the things you ought to do, but with why you ought to do 
them, and that there were whole books written on the sub 
ject. I would have paid some scholar 2 at least to give me a 
lecture of an hour or an hour and a half about Ethics. What 
was the scope of the subject; what were its main branches; 
what were the principal questions dealt with, and the chief 
controversies open; who were the high authorities and which 
were the standard books? But here in Bangalore there was 
no one to tell me about Ethics for love or money. Of tactics 
I had a grip: on politics I had a view: but a concise compen 
dious outline of Ethics was a novelty not to be locally 

This was only typical of a dozen similar mental needs that 



now began to press insistently upon me. I knew of course that 
the youths at the universities were stuffed with all this patter 
at nineteen and twenty, and could pose you entrapping ques 
tions or give baffling answers. We never set much store by 
them or their affected superiority, remembering that they 
were only at their books, while we were commanding men 
and guarding the Empire. Nevertheless I had sometimes 
resented the apt and copious information which some of 
them seemed to possess, and I now wished I could find a com 
petent teacher whom I could listen to and cross-examine for 
an hour or so every day. 

Then someone had used the phrase 'the Socratic method.' 
What was that? It was apparently a way of giving your 
friend his head in an argument and progging him into a pit 
by cunning questions. Who was Socrates, anyhow? A very 
argumentative Greek who had a nagging wife and was final 
ly compelled to commit suicide because he was a nuisance! 
Still, he was beyond doubt a considerable person. He counted 
for a lot in the minds of learned people. I wanted 'the So 
crates story.' Why had his fame lasted through all the ages? 
What were the stresses which had led a government to 
put him to death merely because of the things he said? Dire 
stresses they must have been: the life of the Athenian Execu 
tive or the life of this talkative professor! Such antagonisms 
do not spring from petty issues. Evidently Socrates had 
called something into being long ago which was very ex 
plosive. Intellectual dynamite! A moral bomb! But there 
was nothing about in The Queen's Regulations. 

Then there was history. I had always liked history at 
school. But there we were given only the dullest, driest 
pemmicanised forms like The Student's Hume. Once I had a 
hundred pages of The Student's Hume as a holiday task. 
Quite unexpectedly, before I went back to school, my father 
set out to examine me upon it. The period was Charles I. He 
asked me about the Grand Remonstrance j what did I know 
about that? I said that in the end the Parliament beat the 



King and cut his head off. This seemed to me the grandest 
remonstrance imaginable. It was no good. 'Here,' said my 
father, 'is a grave parliamentary question affecting the whole 
structure of our constitutional history, lying near the centre 
of the task you have been set, and you do not in the slightest 
degree appreciate the issues involved.' I was puzzled by his 
concern; I could not see at the time why it should matter 
so much. Now I wanted to know more about it. 

So I resolved to read history, philosophy, economics, and 
things like that; and I wrote to my mother asking for such 
books as I had heard of on these topics. She responded with 
alacrity, and every month the mail brought me a substantial 
package of what I thought were standard works. In history 
I decided to begin with Gibbon. Someone had told me that 
my father had read Gibbon with delight; that he knew whole 
pages of it by heart, and that it had greatly affected his style 
of speech and writing. So without more ado I set out upon 
the eight volumes of Dean Milman's edition of Gibbon's 
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empre. I was immediately 
dominated both by the story and the style. All through the 
long glistening middle hours of the Indian day, from when 
we quitted stables till the evening shadows proclaimed the 
hour of Polo, I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly 
through it from end to end and enjoyed it all. I scribbled all 
my opinions on the margins of the pages, and very soon 
found myself a vehement partisan of the author against the 
disparagements of his pompous-pious editor. I was not even 
estranged by his naughty footnotes. On the other hand the 
Dean's apologies and disclaimers roused my ire. So pleased 
was I with The Decline and Fall that I began at once to 
read Gibbon's Autobiography, which luckily was bound up 
in the same edition. When I read his reference to his old 
nurse: 'If there be any, as I trust there are some, who re 
joice that I live, to that dear and excellent woman their 
gratitude is due,' I thought of Mrs. Everest; and it shall be 
her epitaph. 



From Gibbon I went to Macaulay. I had learnt The 
Lays of Ancient Rome by heart and loved them 5 and of 
course I knew he had written a history ; but I had never read 
a page of it. I now embarked on that splendid romance, and 
I voyaged with full sail in a strong wind. I remembered then 
that Mrs. Everest's brother-in-law, the old prison warden, 
had possessed a copy of Macaulay's History, purchased in 
supplements and bound together, and that he used to speak 
of it with reverence. I accepted all Macaulay wrote as gospel, 
and I was grieved to read his harsh judgments upon the 
Great Duke of Marlborough. There was no one at hand to 
tell me that this historian with his captivating style and de 
vastating self-confidence was the prince of literary rogues, 
who always preferred the tale to the truth, and smirched or 
glorified great men and garbled documents according as they 
affected his drama. I cannot forgive him for imposing on my 
confidence and on the simple faith of my old friend the 
warder. Still I must admit an immense debt upon the other 

Not less than in his History, I revelled in his Essays: 
Chatham; Frederick the Great; Lord Nugent's Memorials 
of Hampden; Clive; Warren Hastings; Barere (the dirty 
dog); Southey's Colloquies on Society; and above all that 
masterpiece of literary ferocity, Mr. Robert Montgomery's 

From November to May I read for four or five hours 
every day history and philosophy. Plato's Republic it ap 
peared he was for all practical purposes the same as Soc 
rates; the Politics of Aristotle, edited by Dr. Welldon him 
self; Schopenhauer on Pessimism; Malthus on Population; 
Darwin's Origin of Species: all interspersed with other 
books of lesser standing. It was a curious education. First be 
cause I approached it with an empty, hungry mind, and with 
fairly strong jaws; and what I got I bit; secondly because I 
had no one to tell me: 'This is discredited.' 'You should read 
the answer to that by so and so; the two together will give 



you the gist of the argument.' 'There is a much better book 
on that subject/ and so forth. I now began for the first time 
to envy those young cubs at the university who had fine 
scholars to tell them what was what 5 professors who had de 
voted their lives to mastering and focussing ideas in every 
branch of learning 5 who were eager to distribute the trea 
sures they had gathered before they were overtaken by the 
night. But now I pity undergraduates, when I see what frivo 
lous lives many of them lead in the midst of precious fleeting 
opportunity. After all, a man's Life must be nailed to a cross 
either of Thought or Action. Without work there is no play. 
When I am in the Socratic mood and planning my Re 
public, I make drastic changes in the education of the sons of 
well-to-do citizens. When they are sixteen or seventeen they 
begin to learn a craft and to do healthy manual labour, with 
plenty of poetry, songs, dancing, drill and gymnastics in 
their spare time. They can thus let off their steam on some 
thing useful. It is only when they are really thirsty for 
knowledge, longing to hear about things, that I would let 
them go to the university. It would be a favour, a coveted 
privilege, only to be given to those who had either proved 
their worth in factory or field or whose qualities and zeal 
were pre-eminent. However, this would upset a lot of things $ 
it would cause commotion and bring me perhaps in the end 
a hemlock draught. 

My various readings during the next two years led me to 
ask myself questions about religion. Hitherto I had dutifully 
accepted everything I had been told. Even in the holidays I 
always had to go once a week to Church, and at Harrow 
there were three services every Sunday, besides morning and 
evening prayers throughout the week. All this was very 
good. I accumulated in those years so fine a surplus in the 
Bank of Observance that I have been drawing confidently 
upon it ever since. Weddings, christenings, and funerals have 


brought in a steady annual income, and I have never made 
too close enquiries about the state of my account. It might 
well even be that I should find an overdraft. But now in 
these bright days of youth my attendances were well ahead 
of the Sundays. In the Army too there were regular church 
parades, and sometimes I marched the Roman Catholics to 
church, and sometimes the Protestants. Religious toleration 
in the British Army had spread till it overlapped the regions 
of indifference. No one was ever hampered or prejudiced on 
account of his religion. Everyone had the regulation facilities 
for its observance. In India the deities of a hundred creeds 
were placed by respectful routine in the Imperial Pantheon. 
In the regiment we sometimes used to argue questions like 
c Whether we should live again in another world after this 
was over?' c Whether we have ever lived before?' ' Whether 
we remember and meet each other after Death or merely 
start again like the Buddhists? 3 c Whether some high intelli 
gence is looking after the world or whether things are just 
drifting on anyhow?' There was general agreement that if 
you tried your best to live an honourable life and did your 
duty and were faithful to friends and not unkind to the weak 
and poor, it did not matter much what you believed or dis 
believed. All would come out right. This is what would no\fr- 
adays I suppose be called 'The Religion of Healthy-Mind- 

Some of the senior officers also dwelt upon the value of 
the Christian religion to women ('It helps to keep them 
straight') 5 and also generally to the lower orders ('Nothing 
can give them a good time here, but it makes them more con 
tented to think they will get one hereafter'). Christianity, it 
appeared, had also a disciplinary value, especially when pre 
sented through the Church of England. It made people want 
to be respectable, to keep up appearances, and so saved lots 
of scandals. From this standpoint ceremonies and ritual 
ceased to be of importance. They were merely the same idea 
translated into different languages to suit diff erent races and 



temperaments. Too much religion of any kind, however, was 
a bad thing. Among natives especially, fanaticism was highly 
dangerous and roused them to murder, mutiny or rebellion. 
Such is, I think, a fair gauging of the climate of opinion in 
which I dwelt. 

I now began to read a number of books which challenged 
the whole religious education I had received at Harrow. The 
first of these books was The Martyrdom of Man by Win- 
wood Reade. This was Colonel Brabazon's great book. He 
had read it many times over and regarded it as a sort of 
Bible. It is in fact a concise and well-written universal his 
tory of mankind, dealing in harsh terms with the mysteries 
of all religions and leading to the depressing conclusion that 
we simply go out like candles. I was much startled and in 
deed offended by what I read. But then I found that Gibbon 
evidently held the same viewj and finally Mr. Lecky, in his 
Rise and Influence of Rationalism and History of European 
Morals y both of which I read this winter, established in my 
mind a predominantly secular view. For a time I was indig 
nant at having been told so many untruths, as I then re 
garded them, by the schoolmasters and clergy who had 
guided my youth. Of course if I had been at a University 
my difficulties might have been resolved by the eminent pro 
fessors and divines who are gathered there. At any rate, they 
would have shown me equally convincing books putting the 
opposite point of view. As it was I passed through a violent 
and aggressive anti-religious phase which, had it lasted, 
might easily have made me a nuisance. My poise was re 
stored during the next few years by frequent contact with 
danger. I found that whatever I might think and argue, I 
did not hesitate to ask for special protection when about to 
come under the fire of the enemy: nor to feel sincerely grate 
ful when I got home safe to tea. I even asked for lesser 
things than not to be killed too soon, and nearly always in 
these years, and indeed throughout my life, I got what I 
wanted. This practice seemed perfectly natural, and just as 


strong and real as the reasoning process which contradicted 
it so sharply. Moreover the practice was comforting and the 
reasoning led nowhere. I therefore acted in accordance with 
my feelings without troubling to square such conduct with 
the conclusions of thought. 

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of 
quotations. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is an admirable 
work, . and I studied it intently. The quotations when en 
graved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also 
make you anxious to read the authors and look for more. In 
this or some other similar book I came across a French say 
ing which seemed singularly opposite. c Le coeur a ses raisons, 
que la raison ne connait pas.' It seemed to me that it would 
be very foolish to discard the reasons of the heart for those 
of the head. Indeed I could not see why I should not enjoy 
them both. I did not worry about the inconsistency of think 
ing one way and believing the other. It seemed good to let 
the mind explore so far as it could the paths of thought and 
logic, and also good to pray for help and succour, and be 
thankful when they came. I could not feel that the Supreme 
Creator who gave us our minds as well as our souls would be 
offended if they did not always run smoothly together in 
double harness. After all He must have foreseen this from 
the beginning and of course He would understand it all. 

Accordingly I have always been surprised to see some of 
our Bishops and clergy making such heavy weather about 
reconciling the Bible story with modern scientific and his 
torical knowledge. Why do they want to reconcile them? If 
you are the recipient of a message which cheers your heart 
and fortifies your soul, which promises you reunion with 
those you have loved in a world of larger opportunity and 
wider sympathies, why should you worry about the shape or 
colour of the travel-stained envelope 5 whether it is duly 
stamped, whether the date on the postmark is right or wrong? 
These matters may be puzzling, but they are certainly not 
important. What is important is the message and the benefits 



to you of receiving it. Close reasoning can conduct one to the 
precise conclusion that miracles are impossible: that c it is 
much more likely that human testimony should err, than 
that the laws of nature should be violated' 3 and at the same 
time one may rejoice to read how Christ turned the water 
into wine in Cana of Galilee or walked on the lake or rose 
from the dead. The human brain cannot comprehend in 
finity, but the discovery of mathematics enables it to be han 
dled quite easily. The idea that nothing is true except what 
we comprehend is silly, and that ideas which our minds can 
not reconcile are mutually destructive, sillier still. Certainly 
nothing could be more repulsive both to our minds and feel 
ings than the spectacle of thousands of millions of universes 
for that is what they say it comes to now all knocking 
about together for ever without any rational or good pur 
pose behind them. I therefore adopted quite early in life a 
system of believing whatever I wanted to believe, while at 
the same time leaving reason to pursue unfettered whatever 
paths she was capable of treading. 

Some of my cousins who had the great advantage of Uni 
versity education used to tease me with arguments to prove 
that nothing has any existence except what we think of it. 
The whole creation is but a dream } all phenomena are imag 
inary. You create your own universe as you go along. The 
stronger your imagination, the more variegated your uni 
verse. When you leave off dreaming, the universe ceases to 
exist. These amusing mental acrobatics are all right to play 
with. They are perfectly harmless and perfectly useless. I 
warn my younger readers only to treat them as a game. The 
metaphysicians will have the last word and defy you to dis 
prove their absurd propositions. 

I always rested upon the following argument which I de 
vised for myself many years ago. We look up in the sky and 
see the sun. Our eyes are dazzled and our senses record the 
fact. So here is this great sun standing apparently on no bet 
ter foundation than our physical senses. But happily there is 



a method, apart altogether from our physical senses, of test 
ing the reality of the sun. It is by mathematics. By means of 
prolonged processes of mathematics, entirely separate from 
the senses, astronomers are able to calculate when an eclipse 
will occur. They predict by pure reason that a black spot will 
pass across the sun on a certain day. You go and look, and 
your sense of sight immediately tells you that their calcula 
tions are vindicated. So here you have the evidence of the 
senses reinforced by the entirely separate evidence of a vast 
independent process of mathematical reasoning. We have 
taken what is called in military map-making 'a cross bearing.' 
We have got independent testimony to the reality of the 
sun. When my metaphysical friends tell me that the data on 
which the astronomers made their calculations, were neces 
sarily obtained originally through the evidence of the senses, 
I say <No.> They might, in theory at any rate, be obtained by 
automatic calculating-machines set in motion by the light 
falling upon them without admixture of the human senses at 
any stage. When they persist that we should have to be told 
about the calculations and use our ears for that purpose, I 
reply that the mathematical process has a reality and virtue 
in itself, and that once discovered it constitutes a new and in 
dependent factor. I am also at this point accustomed to re 
affirm with emphasis my conviction that the sun is real, and 
also that it is hot in fact as hot as Hell, and that if the 
metaphysicians doubt it they should go there and see. 

* * * * 3|C 

Our first incursion into the Indian polo world was dra 
matic Within six weeks of our landing, the tournament for 
the Golconda Cup was played in Hyderabad. The capital of 
the Nizam's dominions and the neighbouring British garri 
son, five miles away in the cantonment of Secunderabad, main 
tained between them six or seven polo teams. Among these 
were the tyih Hussars, whom we had just relieved at Banga 
lore. There was ill-feeling between the men of the 4th and 




1 9th Hussars, arising out of an unfavourable remark alleged 
to have been made by some private soldier thirty years before 
about the state of the 4th Hussars 5 barracks when the igth 
had taken over from them on some occasion. Although not 
a single soul remained of those involved in the previous dis 
pute, the sergeants and soldiers were found fully informed 
about it, and as angry as if it had only taken place the month 
before. These differences did not, however, extend to the 
commissioned ranks, and we were most hospitably enter 
tained by the Officers 5 Mess. I was accommodated in the 
bungalow of a young Captain named Chetwode, now the 
appointed Commander-in-Chief in India. Apart from other 
garrison teams, there were two formidable Indian rivals: the 
Vicar Al Umra, or Prime Minister's team, and the repre 
sentatives of the famous Golconda Brigade, the bodyguard 
of the Nizam himself. The Golcondas were considered in 
comparably the best team in Southern India. Many and close 
were the contests which they had waged with Patiala and 
Jodhpore, the leading native teams in Northern India. Im 
mense wealth, manifested in ponies, was at their disposal, 
and they had all the horsemanship and comprehension of 
polo which were in those days the common ideal of young In 
dian and British officers. 

Accompanied by the stud of ponies we had purchased com 
plete from the Poona Light Horse, we set out anxious but 
determined on the long journey across the Deccan. Our 
hosts, the 1 9th, received us with open arms, and informed us 
with all suitable condolences that we had had the great mis 
fortune to draw the Golconda team in the first round. They 
were sincere when they said what bad luck it was for us, after 
being so little time in India, to be confronted in our first 
match with the team that would certainly win the tourna 

In the morning we were spectators of a review of the en 
tire garrison. The British troops, the regular Indian troops* 
and the Nizam's army paraded and defiled in martial pomp 



before us, or perhaps it was before the official notabilities. At 
the end came a score of elephants drawing tandem-fashion 
gigantic cannon. It was then the custom for the elephants to 
salute as they marched past by raising their trunks, and this 
they all did with exemplary precision. Later on the custom 
was abolished because vulgar people tittered and the dignity 
of the elephants or their mahouts was wounded. Later on still, 
the elephants themselves were abolished, and we now have 
clattering tractors drawing far larger and more destructive 
guns. Thus civilisation advances. But I mourn the elephants 
and their salutations. 

In the afternoon there was the polo match. Tournaments 
in Hyderabad were a striking spectacle. The whole ground 
was packed with enormous masses of Indian spectators of all 
classes watching the game with keen and instructed attention. 
The tents and canopied stands were thronged with the Brit 
ish community and the Indian rank and fashion of the 
Deccan. We were expected to be an easy prey, and when our 
lithe, darting, straight-hitting opponents scored 3 goals to 
nothing in the first few minutes, we almost shared the gen 
eral opinion. However, without going into details which, 
though important, are effaced by the march of time and 
greater events, amid roars of excitement from the assembled 
multitudes we defeated the Golcondas by 9 goals to 3. On 
succeeding days we made short work of all other opponents, 
and established the record, never since broken, of winning a 
first-class tournament within fifty days of landing in India. 

The reader may imagine with what reinforcement of re 
solve we applied ourselves to the supreme task that lay 
ahead. Several years were, however, to stand between us and 
its accomplishment. 

With the approach of the hot weather season of 1897 it 
became known that a proportion of officers might have what 
was called 'three months' accumulated privilege leave/ to 
England. Having so newly arrived, hardly anybody wanted 
to go. I thought it was a pity that such good things should 



go a-begging, and I therefore volunteered to fill the gap. I 
sailed from Bombay towards the end of May in sweltering 
heat, rough weather and fearful seasickness. When I sat up 
again, we were two-thirds across the Indian Ocean, and I 
soon struck up an acquaintance with a tall thin Colonel, then 
in charge of Musketry Training in India, named Ian Hamil 
ton. He pointed out to me what I had hitherto overlooked, 
that tension existed between Greece and Turkey. In fact 
those powers were on the point of war. Being romantic, he 
was for the Greeks, and hoped to serve with them in some 
capacity. Having been brought up a Tory, I was for the 
Turks 5 and I thought I might follow their armies as a news 
paper correspondent. I also declared that they would cer 
tainly defeat the Greeks, as they were at least five to one 
and much better armed. He was genuinely pained j so I made 
it clear that I would take no part in the operations, but 
would merely see the fun and tell the tale. When we arrived 
at Port Said it was clear that the Greeks had already been 
defeated. They had run away from the unfair contest with 
equal prudence and rapidity, and the Great Powers were en 
deavouring to protect them by diplomacy from destruction. 
So instead of going to the battlefields of Thrace, I spent a 
fortnight in Italy, climbing Vesuvius, c doing' Pompeii and, 
above all, seeing Rome. I read again the sentences in which 
Gibbon has described the emotions with which in his later 
years for the first time he approached the Eternal City, and 
though I had none of his credentials of learning, it was not 
without reverence that I followed in his footsteps. 

This formed a well-conceived prelude to the gaieties of 
the London season. 



I WAS on the lawns of Goodwood in lovely weather and 
winning my money, when the revolt of the Pathan tribes 
men of the Indian frontier began. I read in the newspapers 
that a Field Force of three brigades had been formed, and 
that at the head of it stood Sir Bindon Blood. Forthwith I 
telegraphed reminding him of his promise, and took the 
train for Brindisi to catch the Indian Mail. I impressed Lord 
William Beresford into my cause. He reinforced my ap 
peals to the General. He entertained me at the Marlborough 
Club before my train left Victoria. These Beresfords had a 
great air. They made one feel that the world and everyone 
In it were of fine consequence. I remember the manner in 
which he announced my purpose to a circle of club friends 
many years my seniors. 'He goes to the East to-night to 
the seat of war.' 'To the East 7 the expression struck me. 
Most people would have said c He is going out to India; 5 but 
to that generation the East meant the gateway to the ad 
ventures and conquests of England. <To the Front? 3 they 
asked. Alas, I could only say I hoped so. However, they were 
all most friendly and even enthusiastic. I felt very impor 
tant, but naturally observed a marked discretion upon Sir 
Bindon Blood's plan of campaign. 

I only just caught the train j but I caught it in the best of 

One voyage to India is enough} the others are merely re 
pletion. It was the hottest season of the year, and the Red 
Sea was stifling. The hand-pulled punkahs, for in those days 
there were no electric fans, flapped vigorously to and fro in 
the crowded dining-saloon and agitated the hot food-smell 
ing air. But these physical discomforts were nothing beside 
my mental anxieties. I was giving up a whole fortnight's 



leave. At Brindisi no answer had come from Sir Bindon 
Blood. It was sure to come at Aden. There I danced about 
from one foot to the other till the steward had distributed 
the last of the telegrams and left me forlorn. However, at 
Bombay was good news. The GeneraPs message was 'Very 
difficult; no vacancies 5 come up as a correspondent 5 will try 
to fit you in. B. B.> 

I had first of all to obtain leave from my regiment at 
Bangalore. This meant a two days' journey by railway in the 
opposite direction to that in which my hopes were directed. 
The regiment was surprised to see me back before my time, 
but an extra subaltern for duty was always welcome. Mean 
while I had been commissioned as war correspondent by the 
Pioneer newspaper, and my Mother had also arranged in 
England that my letters should be simultaneously published 
in the Daily Telegraph) for which that journal was willing 
to pay 5 a column. This was not much, considering that I 
had to pay all my own expenses. I carried these journalistic 
credentials when I presented in much anxiety Sir Bindon 
Blood's telegram to my commanding officer. But the Colo 
nel was indulgent, and the fates were kind. Although the 
telegram was quite informal and unofficial, I was told that 
I could go and try my luck. That night therefore with 
my dressing-boy and campaigning kit I sped to the Banga 
lore railway station and bought a ticket for Nowshera. The 
Indian clerk, having collected from me a small sack of ru 
pees, pushed an ordinary ticket through a pigeon hole. I had 
the curiosity to ask how far it was. The polite Indian con 
sulted a railway time table and impassively answered 2,028 
miles. Quite a big place, India! This meant a five days' 
journey in the worst of the heat. I was alone; but with plenty 
of books, the time passed not unpleasantly. Those large 
leather-lined Indian railway carriages, deeply-shuttered and 
blinded from the blistering sun and kept fairly cool by a 
circular wheel of wet straw which one turned from time to 
time, were well adapted to the local conditibns. I spent five 



days in a dark padded moving cell, reading mostly by lamp' 
light or by some jealously admitted ray of glare. 

I broke my journey for a night and day at Rawalpindi 
where I had a subaltern friend in the Fourth Dragoon 
Guards. There was a certain stir in Rawalpindi, although it 
was some hundreds of miles away from the front. The whole 
garrison was hoping to be sent north. All leave was stopped 
and the Dragoon Guards were expecting to be ordered any 
day to grind their swords. After dinner we repaired to the 
Sergeants' Mess, where a spirited sing-song was in progress. 
Nothing recalls the past so potently as a smell. In default of 
a smell the next best mnemonic is a tune. I have got tunes 
in my head for every war I have been to, and indeed for 
every critical or exciting phase in my life. Some day when 
my ship comes home, I am going to have them all collected 
in gramophone records, and then I will sit in a chair and 
smoke my cigar, while pictures and faces, moods and sensa 
tions long-vanished return j and pale but true there gleams 
the light of other days. I remember well the songs the sol 
diers sang on this occasion. There was a song called *The 
New Photographee' about some shocking invention which 
had just been made enabling photographs to be taken through 
a screen or other opaque obstruction. This was the first I had 
heard of it. It appeared that there might soon be an end to 
all privacy. In the words of the song 

*The | in | side | of | ev | er | y |- thing | you | see, | 
A ter | ri | ble | thing, | an | 'or | ri | ble | thing, | is | the | new | 
pho | tog | ra | phee.' | 

Of course we treated it all as a joke, but afterwards I read 
in the newspaper that they might some day even be able to 
see the very bones in your body! Then there was the song, 
the chorus of which was 

'And England asks the question 
When danger's nigh 
Will the sons of India do or die?' 



and naturally a reassuring answer was forthcoming. But the 
best of all was 

'Great White Mother, far across the sea, 
Ruler of the Empire may she ever be. 
Long may she reign, glorious and free, 
In the Great White Motherland.' 

I felt much uplifted by these noble sentiments especially 
after having been spaciously entertained at the regimental 
mess. I comported myself however with purposed discre 
tion, because there was at this time some ill-feeling between 
this distinguished regiment and my own. An officer of the 
Fourth Dragoon Guards had telegraphed to one of our Cap 
tains in the ordinary routine of the service, saying 'Please 
state your lowest terms for an exchange into the Fourth 
Dragoon Guards.' To which our Captain had gaily replied 
c 1 0,000, a Peerage and a free kit.' The Dragoon Guards had 
taken umbrage at this and thought it was a reflection upon 
the standing of their regiment. This ruffing of plumes added 
zest to the competitions we were later on to have with this 
fine regiment in the polo championships of 1898 and 1899. 
I must not allow the reader to forget that I am on my 
way post-haste to the front, and early on the sixth morning 
after I had left Bangalore I stood on the platform of Now- 
shera, the railhead of the Malakand Field Force, It was 
forty miles across the plains in really amazing heat, before 
the tonga a kind of little cart drawn by relays of gallop 
ing ponies began to climb the steep winding ascent to the 
Malakand Pass. This defile had been forced by Sir Bindon 
Blood three years before, and the headquarters for the new 
campaign, together with a brigade of all arms, were encamped 
upon its summit. Yellow with dust I presented myself at the 
Staff Office. The General was away. He had gone with a fly 
ing column to deal with the Bunerwals, a most formidable 
tribe with a valley of their own in which they had main 
tained themselves for centuries against all comers. In 1863 



the Imperial Government had sent an expedition to Buner 
resulting in what is known in Anglo-Indian annals as the 
Umbeyla campaign. The Bunerwals had resisted with extra 
ordinary spirit, and the skeletons of several hundred British 
soldiers and Sepoys mouldered round the once notorious 
Crag Picquet, stormed and retaken again and again. No one 
knew how long Sir Bindon Blood would be occupied in deal 
ing with these famous and ferocious bandits. In the mean 
while I was made a member of the Staff Mess and told I 
might unroll my Wolseley valise in one of the tents. I de 
cided in great docility to be always on my best behaviour for 
fear that anything should happen to get me a bad name in 
this new world into which I had climbed. 

The General took only five days to coax and quell the 
Bunerwals, but it seemed a very long time to me. I en 
deavoured to turn it to the best advantage. I acquired an 
entirely new faculty. Until this time I had never been able 
to drink whisky. I disliked the flavour intensely. I could not 
understand how so many of my brother officers were so often 
calling for a whisky and soda. I liked wine, both red and 
white, and especially champagne} and on very special occa 
sions I could even drink a small glass of brandy. But this 
smoky-tasting whisky I had never been able to face. I now 
found myself in heat which, though I stood it personally 
fairly well, was terrific, for five whole days and with absolutely 
nothing to drink, apart from tea, except either tepid water 
or tepid water with lime-juice or tepid water with whisky. 
Faced with these alternatives I 'grasped the larger hope.' I 
was sustained in these affairs by my high morale. Wishing to 
fit myself for active-service conditions I overcame the ordi 
nary weaknesses of the flesh. By the end of these five days I 
had completely overcome my repugnance to the taste of 
whisky. Nor was this a momentary acquirement. On the con 
trary the ground I gained in those days I have firmly en 
trenched, and held throughout my whole life. Once one got 
the knack of it, the very repulsion from the flavour devel- 



oped an attraction of its own 5 and to this day although I have 
always practised true temperance, I have never shrunk when 
occasion warranted it from the main basic standing refresh 
ment of the white officer in the East. 

Of course all this whisky business was quite a new depar 
ture in fashionable England. My father for instance could 
never have drunk whisky except when shooting on a moor 
or in some very dull chilly place. He lived in the age of the 
'Brandy and Soda/ for which indeed there was much re 
spectable warrant. However, surveying the proposition from 
an impartial standpoint after adequate experiment and reflec 
tion, I am clear that for ordinary daily use whisky in a 
diluted form is the more serviceable of these twin genii. 

Now that I have been drawn into this subject while 
perched upon the Malakand Pass, let me say that I and other 
young officers had been brought up quite differently from 
the University boys of those times. The undergraduates of 
Oxford and Cambridge used to drink like fishes, and they 
even had clubs and formal dinners where it was an obligation 
for everyone to consume more liquor than he could carry. At 
Sandhurst, on the other hand, and in the Army, drunkenness 
was a disgraceful offence punishable not only by social rep 
robation often physically manifested, but if it ever got into 
the official sphere, by the sack. I had been brought up and 
trained to have the utmost contempt for people who got 
drunk; except on very exceptional occasions and a few 
anniversaries and I would have liked to have the boozing 
scholars of the Universities wheeled into line and properly 
chastised for their squalid misuse of what I must ever regard 
as a good gift of the gods. In those days I was very much 
against drunkards, prohibitionists and other weaklings of 
excess: but now I can measure more charitably the frailties 
of nature from which their extravagances originate. Subal 
terns in those days were an intolerant tribe 5 they used to 
think that if a man got drunk or would not allow other peo 
ple to have a drink, he ought to be kicked. Of course we all 



know much better now, having been civilised and ennobled 
by the Great War. 

I had also in these five days to fit myself out in all respects 
for the approaching movement of our force. I had to buy 
two good horses, engage a military syce (groom), and com 
plete my martial wardrobe in many particulars. Unluckily 
for them, but very conveniently for me, several officers had 
been killed in the preceding week, and their effects, including 
what they had stood up in, were, in accordance with Anglo- 
Indian campaigning custom, sold by auction as soon as the 
funeral (if any) was over. In this way I soon acquired a com 
plete outfit. It struck me as rather grim to see the intimate 
belongings of one's comrade of the day before his coat, his 
shirt, his boots, his water-bottle, his revolver, his blanket, 
his cooking-pot thus unceremoniously distributed among 
strangers. But after all it was quite logical and in accordance 
with the highest principles of economics. Here was much the 
best market. All transport charges were already defrayed. 
The dead man disposed of his assets on what were virtually 
monopoly terms. The camp auctioneer realised far better 
prices than any widow or mother could have done for the 
worldly effects of Lieut. A.B. or Capt. X.Y. And as it was 
with the officers, so also was it much more frequently with 
the private soldier. Still I must admit that I felt a pang when 
a few weeks later I first slung round my shoulder the lan 
yard of a gallant friend I had seen killed the day before. 

The time has come when I must put the reader into a 
more general comprehension of the campaign. 1 For three 
years the British had held the summit of the Malakand Pass 
and thus had maintained the road from the Swat Valley and 
across the Swat River by many other valleys to ChitraL 
Chitral was then supposed to be of great military importance* 
It has always seemed to get along quite happily since, but no 
doubt it was very important then. The tribesmen of the Swat 
Valley, irritated by the presence of the troops in what they 

x See Map of Indian Frontier on page 133. 



had for generations regarded as their own country, had sud 
denly burst out in a fury, attributed by the Government to 
religion, but easily explainable on quite ordinary grounds. 
They had attacked the garrisons holding the Malakand Pass 
and the little fort of Chakdara which, peeked up on a rock 
like a miniature Gibraltar, defended the long swinging 
bridge across the Swat River. The misguided tribesmen had 
killed quite a lot of people, including a number of women 
and children belonging to the friendly and pacified inhabi 
tants. There had been a moment of crisis in the defence of 
the Malakand Pass from a sudden and surprise attack. How 
ever, the onslaught had been repulsed, and in the morning 
light the Guides Cavalry and the nth Bengal Lancers had 
chased these turbulent and froward natives from one end of 
the Swat Valley to the other, claiming that they had speared 
and otherwise slain considerable numbers of them. The fort 
of Chakdara, the Lilliputian Gibraltar, had just survived its 
siege and saved its soul (and skin) alive. The swinging wire- 
rope bridge was intact, and by this bridge the punitive expe 
dition of, say, 1 2,000 men and 4,000 animals was now about 
to march into the mountains, through the valleys of Dir and 
Bajaur, past the Mamund country, finally rejoining civilisa 
tion in the plains of India after subduing the Mohmands, 
another tribe who had also been extremely contumacious in 
the neighborhood of Peshawar. 

Sir Bindon Blood returned in due course from the sub 
jugation of the Bunerwals. He was a very experienced An 
glo-Indian officer and he had reduced the Bunerwals to 
reason almost without killing anybody. He liked these wild 
tribesmen and understood the way to talk to them. The 
Pathans are strange people. They have all sorts of horrible 
customs and frightful revenges. They understand bargaining 
perfectly, and provided they are satisfied first of all that you 
are strong enough to talk to them on even terms, one can 
often come to an arrangement across the floor of the House, 
or rather ^behind the Chair.' Now, Sir Bindon Blood had 



cleared it all up quite happily with the Bunerwals. There 
had only been one fight and that a small one, in which his 
aide-de-camp Lord Fincastle and another officer had gained 
the V.C. by rescuing, in circumstances of peculiar valour, a 
wounded comrade, about to be finished off. Back then comes 
my old friend of Deepdene days, a General and Comman- 
der-in-Chief with his staff and escort around him and his 
young heroes in his train. 

Sir Bindon Blood was a striking figure in these savage 
mountains and among these wild rifle-armed clansmen. He 
looked very much more formidable in his uniform, mounted, 
with his standard-bearer and cavalcade, than he had done 
when I had seen him in safe and comfortable England. He 
had seen a great deal of the British and Indian armies in 
war and peace, and he had no illusions on any point. He was 
very proud to be the direct descendant of the notorious 
Colonel Blood, who in the reign of King Charles II had 
attempted to steal by armed force the Crown Jewels from 
the Tower of London. The episode is in the history books. 
The Colonel was arrested as he quitted the Tower gates with 
important parts of the regalia in his hands. Brought to trial 
for high treason and several other capital offences, he was 
acquitted and immediately appointed to command the King's 
bodyguard. This strange sequence of events gave rise to 
scurrilous suggestions that his attempt to abstract the Crown 
Jewels from the Tower had the connivance of the Sover 
eign himself. It is certainly true that the King was very 
short of money in those hard times, and that the prede 
cessors of Mr. Attenborough were already in existence in 
various parts of Europe. However this may be, Sir Bindon 
Blood regarded the attempted stealing of the Crown Jewels 
by his ancestor as the most glorious event in his family his 
tory, and in consequence he had warm sympathy with the 
Pathan tribes on the Indian frontier, all of whom would 
have completely understood the incident in all its bearings, 
and would have bestowed unstinted and discriminating ap 
plause upon all parties. If the General could have got them 



all together and told them the story at length by broadcast, 
it would never have been necessary for three brigades with 
endless tails of mule and camel transport to toil through the 
mountains and sparsely populated highlands in which my 
next few weeks were to be passed. 

The General, then already a veteran, is alive and hale 
to-day. He had one personal ordeal in this campaign. A 
fanatic approaching in a deputation (called a jirga) whipped 
out a knife, and rushed upon him from about eight yards. 
Sir Bindon Blood, mounted upon his horse, drew his re 
volver, which most of us thought on a General of Division 
was merely a token weapon, and shot his assailant dead at 
two yards. It is easy to imagine how delighted everyone in 
the Field Force, down to the most untouchable sweeper, was 
at such an event. 

It is not my purpose to relate the campaign. I have al 
ready written, as will presently appear, a standard history on 
the subject. Unhappily it is out of print. I will therefore 
summarise only in a few sentences its course. The three 
brigades of the Malakand Field Force moved in succession 
through all the valleys I have mentioned, trailing their coats 
before the tribesmen and causing them much inconvenience 
by driving off their cattle for rations and cutting their crops 
for forage. The Political Officers who accompanied the force, 
with white tabs on their collars, parleyed all the time with 
the chiefs, the priests and other local notables. These polit 
ical officers were very unpopular with the army officers. 
They were regarded as marplots. It was alleged that they al 
ways patched things up and put many a slur upon the 
prestige of the Empire without ever letting anyone know 
about it. They were accused of the grievous crime of Shilly 
shallying,' which being interpreted means doing everything 
you possibly can before you shoot. We had with us a very 
brilliant political officer, a Major Deane, who was much dis 
liked because he always stopped military operations. Just 
when we were looking forward to having a splendid fight 
and all the guns were loaded and everyone keyed up, this 


Major Deane and why was he a Major anyhow? so we 
said being in truth nothing better than an ordinary poli 
tician would come along and put a stop to it all. Apparently 
all these savage chiefs were his old friends and almost his 
blood relations. Nothing disturbed their friendship. In be 
tween the fights, they talked as man to man and as pal to 
pal, just as they talked to our General as robber to robber. 

We knew nothing about the police vs. the crook gangs in 
Chicago, but this must have been in the same order of ideas. 
Undoubtedly they all understood each other very well and 
greatly despised things like democracy, commercialism, 
money-getting, business, honesty and vulgar people of all 
kinds. We on the other hand wanted to let off our guns. We 
had not come all this way and endured all these heats and 
discomforts which really were trying you could lift the 
heat with your hands, it sat on your shoulders like a knap 
sack, it rested on your head like a nightmare in order to 
participate in an interminable interchange of confidences 
upon unmentionable matters between the political officers 
and these sulky and murderous tribesmen. And on the other 
side we had the very strong spirit of the 'die-hards' and the 
'young bloods' of the enemy. They wanted to shoot at us and 
we wanted to shoot at them. But we were both baffled by 
what they called the elders, or as one might now put it 'the 
old gang,' and by what we could see quite plainly the white 
tabs or white feathers on the lapels of the political officers. 
However, as has hitherto usually been the case, the carnivor 
ous forces had their way. The tribes broke away from their 
'old gang' and were not calmed by our political officers. So 
a lot of people were killed, and on our side their widows 
have had to be pensioned by the Imperial Government, and 
others were badly wounded and hopped around for the rest 
of their lives, and it was all very exciting and, for those who 
did not get killed or hurt, very jolly. 

I hope to convey to the reader by these somewhat irrev 
erent sentences some idea of the patience and knowledge of 



the Government of India. It is patient because among other 
things it knows that if the worst comes to the worst, it can 
shoot anybody down. Its problem is to avoid such hateful 
conclusions. It is a sedate Government tied up by laws, 
tangled about with parleys and many intimate relationships; 
tied up not only by the House of Commons, but by all sorts 


Illustrating the 

operations of the 



JO SO 30 

of purely Anglo-Indian restraints varying from the grandest 
conceptions of liberal magnanimity down to the most minute 
obstructions and inconveniences of red tape. So societies in 
quiet years should be constructed, overwhelming force on the 
side of the rulers, innumerable objections to the use of any 
part of it. Still from time to time things will happen and 
there are lapses, and what are called 'regrettable incidents' 
will occur, and it is with one of these that the next few pages 
of this account must deal, 




^-CAMPAIGNING on the Indian frontier is an experience by 
*^J itself. Neither the landscape nor the people find their 
counterparts in any other portion of the globe. Valley walls 
rise steeply five or six thousand feet on every side. The 
columns crawl through a maze of giant corridors down which 
fierce snow-fed torrents foam under skies of brass. Amid 
these scenes of savage brilliancy there dwells a race whose 
qualities seem to harmonise' with their environment. Except 
at harvest-time, when self-preservation enjoins a temporary 
truce, the Pathan tribes are always engaged in private or 
public war. Every man is a warrior, a politician and a the 
ologian. Every large house is a real feudal fortress made, it 
is true, only of sunbaked clay, but with battlements, turrets, 
loopholes, flanking towers, drawbridges, etc., complete. 
Every village has its defence. Every family cultivates its 
vendetta 5 every dan, its feud. The numerous tribes and 
combinations of tribes all have their accounts to settle with 
one another. Nothing is ever forgotten, and very few debts 
are left unpaid. For the purposes of social life, in addition to 
the convention about harvest-time, a most elaborate code of 
honour has been established and is on the whole faithfully 
observed. A man who knew it and observed it faultlessly 
might pass unarmed from one end of the frontier to another. 
The slightest technical slip would, however, be fatal. The 
life of the Pathan is thus full of interest; and his valleys, 
nourished alike by endless sunshine and abundant water, are 
fertile enough to yield with little labour the modest material 
requirements of a sparse population. 

Into this happy world the nineteenth century brought two 
new facts 5 the breech-loading rifle and the British Govern- 



ment. The first was an enormous luxury and blessing 5 the 
second, an unmitigated nuisance. The convenience of the 
breech-loading, and still more of the magazine, rifle was no 
where more appreciated than in the Indian highlands. A 
weapon which would kill with accuracy at fifteen hundred 
yards opened a whole new vista of delights to every family 
or clan which could acquire it. One could actually remain in 
one's own house and fire at one's neighbour nearly a mile 
away. One could lie in wait on some high crag, and at hither 
to unheard-of ranges hit a horseman far below. Even vil 
lages could fire at each other without the trouble of going far 
from home. Fabulous prices were therefore offered for these 
glorious products of science. Rifle-thieves scoured all India 
to reinforce the efforts of the honest smuggler. A steady flow 
of the coveted weapons spread its genial influence throughout 
the frontier, and the respect which the Pathan tribesmen 
entertained for Christian civilization was vastly enhanced." 

The action of the British Government on the other hand 
was entirely unsatisfactory. The great organizing, advancing, 
absorbing power to the southward seemed to be little better 
than a monstrous spoil-sport. If the Pathans made forays 
into the plains, not only were they driven back (which after all 
was no more than fair), but a whole series of subsequent in 
terferences took place, followed at intervals by expeditions 
which toiled laboriously through the valleys, scolding the 
tribesmen and exacting fines for any damage which they had 
done. No one would have minded these expeditions if they 
had simply come, had a fight and then gone away again. In 
many cases this was their practice under what was called the 
^butcher and bolt policy' to which the Government of India 
long adhered. But towards the end of the nineteenth cen 
tury these intruders began to make roads through many of 
the valleys, and in particular the great road to Chitral. They 
sought to insure the safety of these roads by threats, by forts 
and by subsidies. There was no objection to the last method 
so far as it went. But the whole of this tendency to road- 


making was regarded by the Pathans with profound distaste. 
All along the road people were expected to keep quiet, not to 
shoot one another, and, above all not to shoot at travellers 
along the road. It was too much to ask, and a whole series of 
quarrels took their origin from this source. 

* # * * * 

Our march to the Mohmand country led us past the 
mouth of the Mamund Valley. This valley is a pan-shaped 
plain nearly ten miles broad. No dispute existed between us 
and the Mamunds. Their reputation was pestilential, and the 
greatest care was taken to leave them alone. But the spectacle 
of the camp with its beautifully-ruled lines of shelters against 
the sun, with its cluster of hospital tents and multitudes of 
horses, camels, mules and donkeys, was too much for the 
Mamunds. Our fires twinkling in a wide quadrilateral through 
the night offered a target too tempting for human nature as 
developed on the Indian frontier to resist. Sniping by indi 
viduals was inevitable and began after dark upon the camp of 
our leading brigade. No great harm was done. A few men 
were wounded. Sir Bindon Blood continued his dinner im 
passively, although at one moment we had to put out the 
candles. In the morning, overlooking the Mamund im 
pudence, we marched on to Nawagai. But the tribesmen were 
now excited, and when our second Brigade which was follow 
ing at two days interval arrived, hundreds of men, armed 
with every kind of weapon from the oldest flintlock to the 
latest rifle, spent three exhilarating hours in firing continu 
ously into the crowded array of men and animals. The great 
bulk of the troops had already dug themselves shallow pits, 
and the whole camp had been surrounded with a shelter 
trench. Nevertheless this night's sport cost them about forty 
officers and men, and many horses and pack animals besides. 
On this being reported, Sir Bindon Blood sent orders to re 
taliate. General Jeffreys commanding the second Brigade 
was told to enter the Mamund Valley on the following day 



and chastise the truculent assailants. The chastisement was to 
take the form of marching up their valley, which is a cul de 
sac, to its extreme point, destroying all the crops, breaking 
the reservoirs of water, blowing up as many castles as time 
permitted, and shooting anyone who obstructed the process. 
'If you want to see a fight/ said Sir Bindon to me, c you may 
ride back and join Jeffreys.' So availing myself of an escort 
of Bengal Lancers which was returning to the second 
Brigade, I picked my way gingerly through the 10 miles of 
broken ground which divided the two camps, and arrived at 
Jeffreys' Headquarters before nightfall. 

All night long the bullets flew across the camp 5 but every 
one now had good holes to lie in, and the horses and mules 
were protected to a large extent. At earliest dawn on Sep 
tember 1 6 our whole Brigade, preceded by a squadron of 
Bengal Lancers, marched in warlike formation into the 
Mamund Valley and was soon widely spread over its ex 
tensive area. There were three separate detachments, each of 
which had its own punitive mission to fulfil. As these di 
verged fanwise, and as our total number did not exceed 
twelve hundred fighting men, we were all soon reduced to 
quite small parties. I attached myself to the centre column 
whose mission it was to proceed to the farthest end of the 
valley. I began by riding with the cavalry. 

We got to the head of the valley without a shot being 
fired. The villages and the plain were equally deserted. As 
we approached the mountain wall our field-glasses showed 
us clusters of tiny figures gathered on a conical hill. From 
these little blobs the sun threw back at intervals bright 
flashes of steel as the tribesmen waved their swords. This 
sight gave everyone the greatest pleasure, and our leading 
troop trotted and cantered forward to a small grove of trees 
which stood within rifle shot of the conical hill. Here we dis 
mounted perhaps fifteen carbines in all and opened fire 
at seven hundred yards' range. Instantly the whole hill be 
came spotted with white puffs of smoke, and bullets began 



to whistle through our little grove. This enjoyable skirmish 
crackled away for nearly an hour, and meanwhile the in 
fantry toiled nearer and nearer to us across the plain. When 
they arrived, it was settled that the leading company of the 
35th Sikhs should attack the conical hill and two more com 
panies should proceed up a long spur to the left of it to 
wards a village whose roofs could be seen amid the boulders 
and waving Indian corn of the mountain-side. The cavalry 
meanwhile would guard the plain and keep connection with 
the reserve of our force under the Brigadier, which now con 
sisted mainly of the Buffs. 1 

I decided to go with the second party up the long spur 
towards the village. I gave my pony to a native and be 
gan to toil up the hillside with the Infantry. It was fright 
fully hot. The sun, nearing the meridian, beat upon one's 
shoulders. We plodded and stumbled upwards for nearly an 
hour now through high patches of Indian corn, now over 
boulders, now along stony tracks or over bare slopes but 
always mounting. A few shots were fired from higher up the 
mountain 3 but otherwise complete peace seemed to reign. As 
we ascended, the whole oval pan of the Mamund Valley 
spread out behind us, and pausing to mop my brow, I sat on a 
rock and surveyed it. It was already nearly eleven o'clock. 
The first thing that struck me was that there were no troops 
to be seen. About half a mile from the foot of the spur a few 
of the Lancers were dismounted. Far off against the distant 
mountain wall a thin column of smoke rose from a burning 
castle. Where was our Army? They had marched out twelve 
hundred strong only a few hours ago, and now the valley 
had swallowed them all up. I took out my glasses and 
searched the plain. Mud villages and castles here and there, 
the deep-cut water-courses, the gleam of reservoirs, occa 
sional belts of cultivation, isolated groves of trees all in a 
sparkling atmosphere backed by serrated cliffs but of a 
British-Indian brigade, no sign. 
Royal West Kent Regiment. 


It occurred to me for the first time that we were a very 
small party: five British officers including myself, and prob 
ably eighty-five Sikhs. That was absolutely all; and here we 
were at the very head of the redoubtable Mamund Valley, 
scrambling up to punish its farthest village. I was fresh 
enough from Sandhurst to remember the warnings about 
'dispersion of forces/ and certainly it seemed that the con 
trast between the precautions which our strong force had 
taken moving out of camp in the morning, and the present 
position of our handful of men, was remarkable. However, 
like most young fools I was looking for trouble, and only 
hoped that something exciting would happen. It did! 

At last we reached the few mud houses of the village. Like 
all the others, it was deserted. It stood at the head of the 
spur, and was linked to the mass of the mountains by a broad 
neck. I lay down with an officer and eight Sikhs on the side of 
the village towards the mountain, while the remainder of the 
company rummaged about the mud houses or sat down and 
rested behind them. A quarter of an hour passed and noth 
ing happened. Then the Captain of the company arrived. 

*We are going to withdraw,' he said to the subaltern. c You 
stay here and cover our retirement till we take up a fresh 
position on that knoll below the village.' He added, 'The 
Buffs don't seem to be coming up, and the Colonel thinks 
we are rather in the air here.' 

It struck me this was a sound observation. We waited an 
other ten minutes. Meanwhile I presumed, for I could not see 
them, the main body of the company was retiring from the 
village towards the lower knoll. Suddenly the mountain-side 
sprang to life. Swords flashed from behind rocks, bright 
flags waved here and there. A dozen widely-scattered white 
smoke-puffs broke from the rugged face in front of us. Loud 
explosions resounded close at hand. From high up on the 
crag, one thousand, two thousand, three thousand feet above 
us, white or blue figures appeared, dropping down the moun 
tainside from ledge to ledge like monkeys down the branches 



of a tall tree. A shrill crying arose from many points. Yi! 
Yi! Yi! Bang! Bang! Bang! The whole hillside began to be 
spotted with smoke, and tiny figures descended every moment 
nearer towards us. Our eight Sikhs opened an independent fire, 
which soon became more and more rapid. The hostile figures 
continued to flow down the mountain-side, and scores began 
to gather in rocks about a hundred yards away from us. The 
targets were too tempting to be resisted. I borrowed the Mar 
tini of the Sikh by whom I lay. He was quite content to hand 
me cartridges. I began to shoot carefully at the men gather 
ing in the rocks. A lot of bullets whistled about us. But we 
lay very flat, and no harm was done. This lasted perhaps five 
minutes in continuous crescendo. We had certainly found the 
adventure for which we had been looking. Then an English 
voice close behind. It was the Battalion Adjutant. 

Come on back now. There is no time to lose. We can 
cover you from the knoll.' 

The Sikh whose rifle I had borrowed had put eight or 
ten cartridges on the ground beside me. It was a standing 
rule to let no ammunition fall into the hands of the tribes 
men. The Sikh seemed rather excited, so I handed him the 
cartridges one after the other to put in his pouch. This was 
a lucky inspiration. The rest of our party got up and turned 
to retreat. There was a ragged volley from the rocks j shouts, 
exclamations, and a scream. I thought for the moment that 
five or six of our men had lain down again. So they had: two 
killed and three wounded. One man was shot through the 
breast and pouring with blood; another lay on his back kick 
ing and twisting. The British officer was spinning round just 
behind me, his face a mass of blood, his right eye cut out. 
Yes, it was certainly an adventure. 

It is a point of honour on the Indian frontier not to leave 
wounded men behind. Death by inches and hideous mutila 
tion are the invariable measure meted out to all who fall in 
battle into the hands of the Pathan tribesmen. Back came the 
Adjutant, with another British officer of subaltern rank, a 



Sikh sergeant-major, and two or three soldiers. We all laid 
hands on the wounded and began to carry and drag them 
away down the hill. We got through the few houses, ten or 
twelve men carrying four, and emerged upon a bare strip of 
ground. Here stood the Captain commanding the company 
with half a dozen men. Beyond and below, one hundred and 
fifty yards away, was the knoll on which a supporting party 
should have been posted. No sign of them! Perhaps it was the 
knoll lower down. We hustled the wounded along, regard 
less of their protests. We had no rearguard of any kind. All 
were carrying the wounded. I was therefore sure that worse 
was close at our heels. We were not half-way across the open 
space when twenty or thirty furious figures appeared among 
the houses, firing frantically or waving their swords. 

I could only follow by fragments what happened after 
that. One of the two Sikhs helping to carry my wounded 
man was shot through the calf. He shouted with pain; his 
turban fell off; and his long black hair streamed over his 
shoulders a tragic golliwog. Two more men came from be 
low and seized hold of our man. The new subaltern and I 
got the golliwog by the collar and dragged him along the 
ground. Luckily it was all down hill. Apparently we hurt 
him so much on the sharp rocks that he asked to be let go 
alone. He hopped and crawled and staggered and stumbled, 
but made a good pace. Thus he escaped. I looked round to 
my left. The Adjutant had been shot. Four of his soldiers 
were carrying him. He was a heavy man, and they all 
clutched at him. Out from the edge of the houses rushed 
half a dozen Pathan swordsmen. The bearers of the poor 
Adjutant let him fall and fled at their approach. The lead 
ing tribesman rushed upon the prostrate figure and slashed it 
three or four times with his sword. I forgot everything else 
at this moment except a desire to kill this man. I wore my 
long Cavalry sword well sharpened. After all, I had won the 
Public School fencing medal. I resolved on personal combat 
a Parme blanche. The savage saw me coming. I was not more 



than twenty yards away. He picked up a big stone and hurled 
it at me with his left hand, and then awaited me, brandishing 
his sword. There were others waiting not far behind him. I 
changed my mind about the cold steel. I pulled out my re 
volver, took, as I thought, most careful aim, and fired. No 
result. I fired again. No result. I fired again. Whether I hit 
him or not I cannot tell. At any rate he ran back two or three 
yards and plumped down behind a rock. The fusillade was 
continuous. I looked around. I was all alone with the enemy. 
Not a friend was to be seen. I ran as fast as I could. There 
were bullets, everywhere. I got to the first knolL Hurrah, 
there were the Sikhs holding the lower one! They made ve 
hement gestures, and in a few moments I was among them. 

There was still about three-quarters of a mile of the spur 
to traverse before the plain was reached, and on each side of 
us other spurs ran downwards. Along these rushed our pur 
suers, striving to cut us off and firing into both our flanks. I 
don't know how long we took to get to the bottom. But it 
was all done quite slowly and steadfastly. We carried two 
wounded officers and about six wounded Sikhs with us. That 
took about twenty men. We left one officer and a dozen men 
dead and wounded to be cut to pieces on the spur. 

During this business I armed myself with the Martini and 
ammunition of a dead man, and fired as carefully as possible 
thirty or forty shots at tribesmen on the left-hand ridge at 
distances from eighty to a hundred and twenty yards. The 
difficulty about these occasions is that one is so out of breath 
and quivering with exertion, if not with excitement. How 
ever, I am sure I never fired without taking aim. 

We fetched up at the bottom of the spur little better than 
a mob, but still with our wounded. There was the company 
reserve and the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the bat 
talion and a few orderlies. The wounded were set down, and 
all the survivors of the whole company were drawn up two 
deep, shoulder to shoulder, while the tribesmen, who must 
have now numbered two or three hundred, gathered in a 



wide and spreading half-moon around our flanks, I saw that 
the white officers were doing everything in their power to 
keep the Sikhs in close order. Although this formation pre 
sented a tremendous target, anything was better than being 
scattered. The tribesmen were all bunched together in 
clumps, and they too seemed frenzied with excitement. 

The Colonel said to me, 'The Buffs are not more than 
half a mile away. Go and tell them to hurry or we shall all 
be wiped out.' 

I had half turned to go on this errand, when a happy 
thought struck me. I saw in imagination the company over 
whelmed and wiped out, and myself, an Orderly Officer to 
the Divisional General, arriving the sole survivor, breathless, 
at top speed, with tidings of disaster and appeals for help. 

C I must have that order in writing, sir, 5 I said. 

The Colonel looked surprised, fumbled in his tunic, pro 
duced his pocket-book and began to write. 

But meanwhile the Captain had made his commands heard 
above the din and confusion. He had forced the company to 
cease their wild and ragged fusillade. I heard an order: 
'Volley firing. Ready. Present.' Crash! At least a dozen 
tribesmen fell. Another volley, and they wavered. A third, 
and they began to withdraw up the hillside. The bugler be 
gan to sound the 'Charge.' Everyone shouted. The crisis was 
over, and here, Praise be to God, were the leading files of the 
Buffs. ; 

Then we rejoiced and ate our lunch. But as it turned out, 
we had a long way to go before night. 

The Buffs had now arrived, and it was obstinately decided 
to retake the spur down which we had been driven in order 
to recover prestige and the body of the Adjutant. This took 
us till five o'clock. 

Meanwhile the other Company of the 35th Sikhs which 
had ascended the mountain on our right, had suffered even 


worse experiences. They eventually regained the plain, bear 
ing along with them perhaps a dozen wounded, and leaving 
several officers and about fifteen soldiers to be devoured by 
the wolves. The shadows of evening had already fallen upon 
the valley, and all the detachments so improvidently dis 
persed in the morning, turned their steps towards the camp, 
gradually eneveloped by a thunderstorm and by the night, 
and closely followed by savage and exulting foes. I marched 
home with the Buffs and the much-mauled 35th Sikhs. It 
was dark when we entered the entrenchments which now sur 
rounded the camp. All the other parties had already got home 
after unsatisfactory, though not serious, fighting. But where 
was the General? And where was his staff? And where was the 
mule battery? 

The perimeter of the camp was strongly guarded, and we 
got ourselves some food amid the usual drizzle of sniping. 
Two hours passed. Where was the General? We now knew 
that he had with him besides the battery, a half-company of 
sappers and miners, and in all about ten white officers. Sud 
denly, from the valley there resounded the boom of a gun, 
calculated to be about three miles away. It was followed at 
short intervals by perhaps twenty more reports, then silence. 
What could be happening? Against what targets was the 
General firing his artillery in the blackness of night? Evi 
dently he must be fighting at the very closest quarters. They 
must be all mixed up together 5 or were these guns firing sig 
nals for help? Ought we to set out to his relief? Volunteers 
were not lacking. The senior officers consulted together. As 
so often happens when things go wrong formalities were dis 
carded, and I found myself taking part in the discussion. It 
was decided that no troops could leave the camp in the night. 
To send a rescue force to blunder on foot amid the innumer 
able pitfalls and obstacles of the valley in pitch darkness 
would be to cause a further disaster, and also to weaken the 
camp fatally if it were to be attacked, as well it might be. The 
General and the battery must fight it out wherever they were 



of the 

showing the action 

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till daylight. Again the guns in the valley fired. So they had 
not been scuppered yet. I saw for the first time the anxieties, 
stresses and perplexities of war. It was not apparently all a 
gay adventure. We were already in jeopardy 5 and anything 
might happen. It was decided that the squadron of Bengal 
Lancers, supported by a column of infantry, should set out 
to relieve the General with the first light of dawn. It was now 
past midnight and I slept soundly, booted and spurred, for 
a few hours. 

The open pan of the valley had no terrors for us in day 
light. We found the General and his battery bunched up in a 
mud village. He had had a rough time. He was wounded in 
the head, but not seriously. Overtaken by the darkness, he 
had thrown his force into some of the houses and improvised 
a sort of fort. The Mamunds had arrived in the village at the 
same time, and all night long a fierce struggle had raged from 
house to house and in the alleys of this mud labyrinth. The 
assailants knew every inch of the ground perfectly. They were 
fighting in their own kitchens and parlours. The defenders 
simply hung on where they could, in almost total darkness, 
without the slightest knowledge of the ground or buildings. 
The tribesmen broke through the walls, or clambered on or 
through the roofs, firing and stabbing with their long knives. 
It was a fight in a rabbit warren. Men grappled with each 
other; shot each other in error 5 cannon were fired as you 
might fire a pistol at an enemy two or three yards away. Four 
of the ten British officers were wounded. A third of the sap 
pers and gunners were casualties, and nearly all the mules 
were dead or streaming with blood. The haggard faces of the 
surviving officers added the final touch to this grim morning 
scene. However, it was all over now. So we proceeded to shoot 
the wounded mules and have breakfast. 

When we all got back to camp, our General communicated 
by heliograph through a distant mountain top with Sir Bindon 
Blood at Nawagai. Sir Bindon and our leading brigade had 
themselves been heavily attacked the night before. They had 



lost hundreds of animals and twenty or thirty men, but other 
wise were none the worse. Sir Bindon sent orders that we were 
to stay in the Mamund valley and lay it waste with fire and 
sword in vengeance. This accordingly we did, but with great 
precautions. We proceeded systematically, village by village, 
and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down 
the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops 
and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation. So long as 
the villages were in the plain, this was quite easy. The tribes 
men sat on the mountains and sullenly watched the destruc 
tion of their homes and means of livelihood. When however 
we had to attack the villages on the sides of the mountains 
they resisted fiercely, and we lost for every village two or 
three British officers and fifteen or twenty native soldiers. 
Whether it was worth it, I cannot tell. At any rate, at the end 
of a fortnight the valley was a desert, and honour was satis 



IN the re-arrangements which were entailed by our losses on 
September 16 I was as an emergency measure posted to 
the 3 ist Punjaub Infantry, which had only three white offi 
cers besides the Colonel left. I have served officially as a regi 
mental officer in peace or war altogether with the 4th Hus 
sars, the 3ist Punjaub Infantry, the 2ist Lancers, the South 
African Light Horse, the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, the 2nd 
Grenadier Guards, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and lastly, with 
the Oxfordshire Artillery. Very varied were the conditions 
in these different units in Asia, Africa and Europe 5 but this 
Punjaub Infantry business was the most peculiar of all. Al 
though a cavalry officer, I had, of course, been trained in in 
fantry; drill at Sandhurst, and considered myself profession 
ally competent in all minor operations, or major too, for the 
matter of that. The language difficulty was however more 
serious. I could hardly speak a word to the native soldiers who 
were perforce committed, in the scarcity of officers, to my di 
rection. I had to proceed almost entirely by signals, gestures 
and dumb-crambo. To these I added three words, *Maro' 
(kill), <Chalo> (get on), and Tally ho! which speaks for it 
self. In these circumstances there could hardly be said to be 
that intimate connection between the Company Commander 
and his men which the drill books enjoin. However, in one 
way or another we got through without mishap three or four 
skirmishes, which I cannot dignify by the name of actions, but 
which were nevertheless both instructive and exciting to the 
handful of men who were engaged in them. I must have done 
it all by moral influence. 

Although I could not enter very fully into their thoughts 
and feelings, I developed a regard for the Punjaubis. There 
was no doubt they liked to have 'a white officer among them 



when fighting, and they watched him carefully to see how 
things were going. If you grinned, they grinned. So I 
grinned industriously. Meanwhile I despatched accounts of 
the campaign both by telegram and letter to the Pioneer and 
also to the Daily Telegraph* 

I now had good hopes of being permanently attached to 
the Malakand Field Force, and of roaming around these 
valleys for some time. However, the character of the opera 
tions changed. The tale of the i6th of September had been 
spread far and wide among the tribesmen, and of course the 
Mamunds probably made out they had had a great success. 
They exaggerated the number of our slain, and no doubt 
declared that their operations were proceeding according to 
plan. We said the same, but they did not read our news 
papers. At any rate the whole frontier region was convulsed 
with excitement, and at the end of September the far more 
powerful Afridi tribes joined the revolt. The Afridis live in 
Tirah, a region of tremendous mountains lying to the north 
of Peshawar and the east of the Khyber Pass. The moun 
tains of Tirah are higher and steeper than those on the 
Malakand side; and the valleys in Tirah are V-shaped in 
stead of flat-bottomed. This greatly adds to the advantages 
of the tribesmen and to the difficulties of regular troops. In 
the middle of Tirah there is a flat plain like the Mamund 
Valley, but much larger, and accessible only by the V- 
shaped gorges through the mountain walls. This is called 
Tirah Maidan, and one may think of it as the centre of the 
maze at Hampton Court with mountains instead of hedges. 

The Government of India in their wisdom now deter 
mined to send an expedition to Tirah Maidan. Here they 
would find all the granaries, herds and principal habitations 
of the Afridi tribes. These could all be destroyed, and the 
tribesmen together with their women and children driven 
up to the higher mountains in the depth of winter, where 
they would certainly be very uncomfortable. In order to 
inflict this chastisement, two whole divisions each of three 



brigades, say 35,000 men, together with large forces upon 
the communications and at the base, would be required. 
This army was accordingly mobilised, and concentrated about 
Peshawar and Kohat preparatory to invading Tirah. No 
white troops had ever yet reached the Maidan. The opera 
tions were considered to be the most serious undertaken on 
the frontier since the Afghan War, and the command was 
entrusted to an officer of the highest distinction and experi 
ence, Sir William Lockhart. Sir Bindon Blood, on the other 
hand, was to remain holding the tribes in check on the 
Malakand side. Our active operations thus came to an end, 
and about the same time reserve white officers of the Punja- 
ubis came up to fill the vacancies in their regiment. I there 
fore turned my eyes to the Tirah Expeditionary Force and 
made strenuous efforts to be incorporated in it. However, 
I knew no one in high authority on that side. Colonel Ian 
Hamilton indeed commanded one of the brigades and would 
certainly have helped. Unluckily, he was thrown from his 
pony marching through the Kohat Pass, broke his leg, lost 
his brigade, missed the campaign, and nearly broke hisi 
heart. While I was in this weak position, detached from one 
force and not yet hooked on to the other, my Colonel far 
away in Southern India began to press for my return. In 
spite of Sir Bindon Blood's good-will, I fell between two 
stools and finished up at Bangalore. 

My brother officers when I returned to them were ex 
tremely civil; but I found a very general opinion that I 
had had enough leave and should now do a steady spell 
of routine duty. The regiment was busy with the autumn 
training and about to proceed on manoeuvres, and so less 
than a fortnight after hearing the bullets whistle in the 
Mamund valley, I found myself popping off blank cart- 
tridges in sham fights two thousand miles away. It seemed 
quite odd to hear the cracking of rifles on all sides, and 
nobody taking cover or bobbing their heads. Apart from 
this, the life was very much the same. It was just as hot, 

. 150 


just as thirsty, and we marched and bivouacked day after 
day. Lovely country, Mysore, with splendid trees and in 
numerable sheets of stored water! We were manoeuvring 
around a great mountain called Nundydroog, where the 
gold mines are, and where there are groves of trees whose 
leaves are brilliant scarlet. 

There was certainly nothing to complain of , but as the 
weeks and months pased away, I watched with wistful eyes 
the newspaper accounts of the Tirah campaign. The two 
divisions had plunged into the mountains, and ultimately 
after much fighting and casualties in those days thought 
numerous, had reached the central plain or basin of Tirah. 
The next move was for them to come back before the worst 
of the winter had set in. This they did promptly, but none 
too soon. The indignant and now triumphant Afridis ran 
along the mountain ridges firing with deadly skill upon the 
long columns defiling painfully down the river bed, and 
forced to ford its freezing waters 10 to 12 times in every 
march. Hundreds of soldiers and thousands of animals were 
shot, and the retreat of the 2nd Division down the Bara 
valley was ragged in the extreme. Indeed at times, so we 
heard privately, it looked more like a rout than the vic 
torious withdrawal of a punitive force. There was no doubt 
who had the punishment, nor who would have to pay 
the bill. Thirty-five thousand troops hunting, and being 
hunted by, Afridis around these gorges for a couple of 
months with 2O,OOO more guarding their communications 
make a nasty total when computed in rupees. Black were the 
brows of the wiseacres of Calcutta, and loud were the com 
plaints of the Liberal Opposition at home. 

I did not cry myself to sleep about the misadventures 
of the Tirah expedition. After all, they had been very 
selfish in not letting me come with them. I thought they 
would have to go in again in the spring, and I redoubled 
my efforts to join them. My mother co-operated energeti 
cally from her end. In my interest she left no wire un- 


pulled, no stone unturned, no cutlet uncooked. Under my 
direction she had laid vigorous siege both to Lord Wolseley 
and Lord Roberts. These fortresses resisted obdurately. 
Lord Roberts wrote: 

*I would, with the greatest pleasure, help your son, but 
it would be no use my communicating with General Lock- 
hart as Sir George White is all powerful, and, as he refused 
to allow Winston to join General Blood's staff, after his 
having previously served with that officer in the Malakand 
Field Force, I feel sure he would not consent to his being 
sent with the Tirah Field Force.' 

*I would telegraph to Sir George White, but I am certain 
that, under the circumstances, he would resent my doing 


Meanwhile, I was tethered in my garrison in Bangalore. 
At Christmas, however, it was easy to obtain ten days' leave. 
Ten days is not long. It was, in fact, long enough to reach 
the frontier and return. But I knew better than to present 
myself at the base headquarters of the field force without 
having prepared the ground beforehand. The military pussy 
cat is a delightful animal, as long as you know how to keep 
clear of her claws, but once excited or irritated, she is capable 
of making herself extremely unpleasant. Moreover, if she 
falls into this mood, it is very difficult to get her out of it. 
I decided therefore to go not to the frontier, but to Cal 
cutta, and to endeavour from the seat of the Indian Govern 
ment to negotiate for a situation at the front. It took at 
thai time three and a half days' continuous railway travelling 
to go from Bangalore to Calcutta, which, with an equal 
period for return, left about sixty hours to transact the all- 
business. The Viceroy, Lord Elgin, under whom 
a^rwards to serve as Under-Secretary of State in the 
ColoteM Office, extended a large hospitality to young officers 
who Md ismfebie introductions* I was royally entertained, 


From a drawing by Sargent ' 


and so well mounted that I won the fortnightly 'point to 
point 5 in which the garrison of Calcutta were wont at that 
time to engage. This was all very well, but my main business 
made no advance. I had, of course, used every resource at 
my disposal before I came on the spot, and I took the best 
advice of the highest authorities to whom I had access. They 
all agreed that the best chance was to beard the Adjutant- 
General, an extremely disagreeable person whose name I 
am glad to have forgotten. He could do it if he chose, and no 
one else could do it if he objected. Accordingly, I presented 
myself in his ante-room and applied for an interview. He 
declined point-blank to receive me, and I then began to real 
ise that my quest was hopeless. There was an air of ironical 
amusement about the high military functionaries whom I 
met during these two days at lunch and dinner. They all 
knew what I had come about and what reception my suit 
would receive. From the Commander-in-Chief Sir George 
White downwards they were all extremely civil, but their 
friendliness seemed to carry with it a suggestion that there 
were some subjects better left unmentioned. And so at the end 
of my sixty hours I had again to clamber into the train and 
toil back discomfited to Bangalore. 

During this winter I wrote my first book. I learned from 
England that my letters to the Daily Telegraph had been 
well received. Although written anonymously 'From a 
Young Officer,' they had attracted attention. The Pioneer 
too was complimentary. Taking these letters as the foun 
dation, I resolved to build a small literary house. My 
friends told me that Lord Fincastle was also writing the 
story of the expedition. It was a race whose book would 
be finished first. I soon experienced a real pleasure in the 
task of writing, and the three or four hours in the middle 
of every day, often devoted to slumber or cards, saw me 
industriously at work. The manuscript was finished shortly 
after Christmas and sent home to my mother to sell. She 
arranged for its publication by Longmans. 


Having contracted the habit of writing, I embarked on 
fiction. I thought I would try my hand at a novel. I found 
this much quicker work than the accurate chronicle of facts. 
Once started, the tale flowed on of itself. I chose as a theme 
a revolt in some imaginary Balkan or South American re 
public, and traced the fortunes of a liberal leader who over 
threw an arbitrary Government only to be swallowed up by 
a socialist revolution. My brother officers were much amused 
by the story as it developed and made various suggestions 
for stimulating the love interest which I was not able to 
accept. But we had plenty of fighting and politics, inter 
spersed with such philosophisings as I was capable of, all 
leading up to the grande finale of an ironclad fleet forcing 
a sort of Dardanelles to quell the rebellious capital. The 
novel was finished in about two months. It was eventually 
published in Macmillan's Magazine under the title of 
'Savrola, 3 and being subsequently reprinted in various edi 
tions, yielded in all over several years about seven hundred 
pounds. I have consistently urged my friends to abstain from 
reading it. 

Meanwhile my book-on the Frontier War had been actu 
ally published. 

In order not to lose two months by sending the proofs 
back to India, I had entrusted their correction to an uncle of 
mine, a very brilliant man and himself a ready writer. For 
some reason or other he missed many scores of shocking 
misprints and made no attempt to organise the punctuation. 
Nevertheless The Mdakand Field Force had an immedi 
ate and wide success. The reviewers, though sarcastic about 
the misprints, etc., vied with each other in praise. When 
the first bundle of reviews reached me together with the 
volume as^ published, I was filled with pride and pleasure at 
the compliments, and consternated about the blurfders. The 
reader must remember I had never been praised before. 
The only comments which had ever been made upon my 
work at school had been 'Indifferent/ 'Untidy,' 'Slovenly,' 



'Very bad,' etc. Now here was the great world with 
its leading literary newspapers and vigilant erudite critics, 
writing whole columns of praise! In fact I should blush even 
now to transcribe the glowing terms in which my 'style' was 
commended. The Athenceum said 'Pages of Napier punctu 
ated by a mad printer's reader.' Others were less discrimi 
nating but even more complimentary. The Pioneer said 
something about c a wisdom and comprehension far beyond 
his years.' That was the stuff! I was thrilled. I knew that if 
this would pass muster there was lots more where it came 
from, and I felt a new way of making a living and of assert 
ing myself, opening splendidly out before me. I saw that 
even this little book had earned me in a few months two 
years' pay as a subaltern. I resolved that as soon as the wars 
which seemed to have begun again in several parts of the 
world should be ended, and we had won the Polo Cup, I 
would free myself from all discipline and authority, and set 
up in perfect independence in England with nobody to give 
me orders or arouse me by bell or trumpet. 

One letter which I received gave me extreme pleasure, 
and I print it here as it shows the extraordinary kindness and 
consideration for young people which the Prince of Wales 1 
always practised. 


MY DEAR WINSTON, April 22/98. 

I cannot resist writing a few lines to congratulate you on 
the success of your book! I have read it with the greatest 
possible interest and I think the descriptions and the lan 
guage generally excellent. Everybody is reading it, and I 
only hear it spoken of with praise. Having now seen active 
service you will wish to see more, and have as great a 
chance I am sure of winning the V.C. as Fincastle had$ and 
I hope you will not follow the example of the latter, who 
I regret to say intends leaving the Army in order to go into 

Afterwards King Edward VII. 



You have plenty of time before you, and should certainly 
stick to the Army before adding M.P. to your name. 
Hoping that you are flourishing, 

I am, 

Yours very sincerely, 


There was no more leave for me until the regimental 
polo team went north in the middle of March to play in 
the Annual Cavalry Tournament. I was fortunate enough 
to win a place, and in due course found myself at Meerut, 
the great cantonment where these contests usually take place. 
We were, I think, without doubt the second best team of 
all those who competed. We were defeated by the victors, 
the famous Durham Light Infantry. They were the only 
infantry regiment that ever won the Cavalry Cup. They 
were never beaten. All the crack regiments went down 
before them. The finest native teams shared a similar fate. 
All the wealth of Golconda and Rajputana, all the pride of 
their Maharajahs and the skill of their splendid players, 
were brushed firmly aside by these invincible foot soldiers. 
No record equals theirs in the annals of Indian polo. Their 
achievements were due to the brains and will-power of one 
man. Captain de Lisle, afterwards distinguished at Galli- 
poli and a Corps Commander on the western front, drilled, 
organised, and for four years led his team to certain and 
unbroken victory in all parts of India. We fell before his 
prowess in this the last year of his Indian polo career. 

Meerut was 1,400 miles north of Bangalore, but it was 
still more than 600 miles from the front. Our leave ex 
pired three days after the final match of the tournament, 
and it took exactly three days in the train to return to 
Bangalore. A day and a half were required on the other 
baud to reach Peshawar and the front. I was by now so 
desperate that I felt the time had come to run a serious 
risL Colonel Ian Hamilton was at length recovered from his 



accident, and had resumed the command of his brigade on 
their return from Tirah. He stood in high repute in the 
army, was a close personal friend and old brother officer 
of Sir George White, and on excellent terms with Sir 
William Lockhart. With Ian Hamilton I had long been 
in close correspondence, and he had made many efforts on 
my behalf. His reports were not very encouraging. There 
were many posts to be filled in the Expeditionary Force, but 
all appointments were made from Calcutta and through the 
Adjutant General's department. There was only one excep 
tion to this, namely appointments to the personal staff of Sir 
William Lockhart. I did not know Sir William Lockhart, 
nor so far as I could recollect had either my father or my 
mother made his acquaintance. How should I be able to 
obtain access to him, still more to persuade him to give me 
one of the two or three most coveted junior appointments 
on his staff? Besides, his staff was already complete. On the 
other hand, Colonel Ian Hamilton was in favour of my run 
ning the risk. C I will do what I can, 5 he wrote. 'The Com- 
mander-in-Chief has an aide-de-camp of the name of Hal- 
dane, who was in the Gordon Highlanders with me. He 
has immense influence in fact, they say throughout the 
Army, too much. If he were well disposed towards you, 
everything could be arranged. I have tried to prepare the 
ground. He is not friendly to you, but neither is he hostile. 
If you came up here, you might with your push and per 
suasiveness pull it off.' 

Such was the gist of the letter which reached me on the 
morning after we had been defeated in the semi-final of 
the tournament. I looked out the trains north and south. 
There was obviously not time to take a day and a half's 
journey northwards to Peshawar, have a few hours there, 
and make the four and a half days' journey south within 
the limits of my expiring leave. I was bound, in short, if 
I took the northern train and failed to get an appointment 
at the front, to overstay my leave by at least forty-eight 



hours. I well knew that this was a military offence for 
which I should deservedly be punished. It would have been 
quite easy in ordinary circumstances to apply by telegraph 
for so short an extension, but once my plan of going to 
the front had been grasped by the regimental authorities, 
it was not an extension I should have received, but an order 
of immediate recall. In all the circumstances I decided to 
take the chance, and I started for Peshawar forthwith. 

In the crisp air of the early morning I sought with a 
beating heart Sir William Lockhart at his headquarters, and 
sent my name in to his aide-de-camp. Out came the redoubt 
able Haldane, none too cordial but evidently interested and 
obviously in two minds. I don't remember what I said nor 
how I stated my case, but I must have hit the bull's eye 
more than once. For after about half an hour's walking up 
and down on the gravel-path Captain Haldane said, 'Well, 
I'll go and ask the Commander-in-Chief and see what he 
says.' Off he went, and I continued pacing the gravel alone. 
He was not gone long. 'Sir William has decided/ he said 
when he returned, 'to appoint you an extra orderly officer on 
his personal staff. You will take up your duties at once. We 
are communicating with the Government of India and your 

So forthwith my situation changed in a moment from 
disfavour and irregularity to commanding advantage. Red 
tabs sprouted on the lapels of my coat. The Adjutant-Gen 
eral published my appointment in the Gazette. Horses and 
servants were dispatched by the regiment from far-off Bang 
alore,^ and I became the close personal attendant of the 
aptain of the Host To the interest and pleasure of hearing 
the daily conversation of this charming and distinguished 
who knew every inch of the frontier and had fought 
& every war upon it for forty years, was added the oppor 
tunity of Visiting every part of his army, sure always of 
finding smiling faces. 

For the first fortnight I behaved and was treated as be- 

From a photograph by Elliott and Fry 



fitted my youth and subordinate station. I sat silent at meals 
or only rarely asked a tactful question. But an incident 
presently occurred which gave me quite a different footing 
on Sir William Lockhart's staff. Captain Haldane used to 
take me with him on his daily walk, and we soon became 
intimate. He told me a good many things about the General 
and the staff, about the army and the operations as viewed 
from the inside, which showed me that much went on of 
which I and the general public were unconscious. One day 
he mentioned that a newspaper correspondent who had been 
sent home to England had written an article in the Fort 
nightly Review criticising severely, and as he said unfairly, 
the whole conduct of the Tirah expedition. The General and 
Headquarters Staff had been deeply wounded by this cruel 
attack. The Chief of the Staff, General Nicholson who 
afterwards rose to the head of the British Army and was 
already well known as c Old Nick' had written a masterly, 
or at least a dusty, rejoinder. This had already been dis 
patched to England by the last mail. 

Here at any rate I saw an opportunity of returning the 
kindness with which I had been treated by giving good and 
prompt advice. So I said that it would be considered most 
undignified and even improper for a high officer on the 
Staff of the Army in the Field to enter into newspaper con 
troversy about the conduct of operations with a dismissed 
war-correspondent; that I was sure the Government would 
be surprised, and the War Office furious 5 that the Army 
Staff were expected to leave their defence to their superiors 
or to the politicians 5 and that no matter how good the argu 
ments were, the mere fact of advancing them would be 
everywhere taken as a sign of weakness. Captain Haldane 
was much disturbed." We turned round and went home at 
once. All that night there were confabulations between the 
Commander-in-Chief and his staff officers. The next day I 
was asked how could the article already in the post be 
stopped. Ought the War Office to be told to put pressure 



upon the editor of the Fortnightly Review, and forbid him 
to print it when it was received? Would he be likely to 
obey such a request? I said he was presumably a gentleman, 
and that if he received a cable from the author asking him 
not to print the article, he would instantly comply, and 
bear his disappointment as he might. A cable was accordingly 
sent and received a reassuring reply. After this I began to 
be taken much more into the confidential circles of the staff 
and was treated as if I were quite a grown-up. Indeed I 
think that I was now very favourably situated for the open 
ing of the Spring Campaign, and I began to have hopes of 
getting my teeth into serious affairs. The Commander-in- 
Chief seemed well pleased with me and I was altogether 
'in the swim.' Unhappily for me at least my good fortune 
had come too late. The operations which were expected 
every day to recommence on an even larger scale gradually 
languished, then dissolved in prolonged negotiations with 
the tribesmen, and finally resulted in a lasting peace, the 
wisdom of which as a budding politician I was forced to 
approve, but which had nothing to do with the business that 
had brought me to Peshawar. 

Thus the beaver builds his dam, and thus when his fish 
ing is about to begin, comes the flood and sweeps his work 
and luck and fish away together. So he has to begin again. 

1 60 


THE fighting on the Indian frontier had scarcely closed 
before the rumours of a new campaign in the Soudan 
began to ripen into certainty. The determination of Lord 
Salisbury's Government to advance to Khartoum, crush the 
Dervish power and liberate these immense regions from its 
withering tyranny, was openly avowed. Even while the 
Tirah Expeditionary Force was being demobilised, the first 
phase of the new operations began; and Sir Herbert Kitch 
ener with a British and Egyptian force of about 20,000 men 
had already reached the confluence of the Nile and the 
Atbara, and had in a fierce action destroyed the Army of 
Mahmoud, the Khalifa's lieutenant, which had been sent 
to oppose him. There remained only the final phase of the 
long drama of the Soudan the advance 200 miles south 
ward to the Dervish capital and the decisive battle with the 
whole strength of the Dervish Empire. 

I was deeply anxious to share in this. 

But now I began to encounter resistances of a new and 
formidable character. When I had first gone into the Army, 
and wanted to go on active service, nearly everyone had 
been friendly and encouraging. 

... : all the world looked kind, 

(As it will look sometimes with the first stare 

Which Youth would not act ill to keep in mind). 

The first stare was certainly over. I now perceived that 
there were many ill-informed and ill-disposed people who 
did not take a favourable view of my activities. On the con 
trary they began to develop an adverse and even a hostile 
attitude. They began to say things like this: 'Who the devil 



is this fellow? How has he managed to get to these differ 
ent campaigns? Why should he write for the papers and 
serve as an officer at the same time? Why should a subaltern 
praise or criticise his senior officers? Why should Generals 
show him favour? How does he get so much leave from his 
regiment? Look at all the hard-working men who have 
never stirred an inch from the daily round and common task. 
We have had quite enough of this too much indeed. He is 
very young, and later on he may be all right 5 but now a long 
period of discipline and routine is what 2nd Lieutenant 
Churchill requires.' Others proceeded to be actually abusive, 
and the expressions 'Medal-hunter' and 'Self-advertiser' 
were used from time to time in some high and some low 
military circles in a manner which would, I am sure, surprise 
and pain the readers of these notes. It is melancholy to be 
forced to record these less amiable aspects of human nature, 
which by a most curious and indeed unaccountable coinci 
dence have always seemed to present themselves in the wake 
of my innocent footsteps, and even sometimes across the 
path on which I wished to proceed. 

At any rate, quite early in the process of making my 
arrangements to take part in the Soudan campaign, I be 
came conscious of the unconcealed disapproval and hostility 
of the Sirdar of the Egyptian Army, Sir Herbert Kitchener. 
My application to join that army, although favoured by the 
War Office, was refused, while several other officers of my 
service and rank were accepted. The enquiries which I made 
through various channels made it clear to me that the re 
fusal came from the highest quarter. I could not possibly 
hope to overcome these ponderous obstacles from the can 
tonments of Bangalore in which I lay. As I was entitled 
aftdrth^Tirah Expeditionary Force had been demobilised to 
a f>rkxl of leave, I decided to proceed without delay to the 
cefttrS of the Empire and argue the matter out in London. 

On reaching London I mobilised whatever resources were 
my reach; My mother devoted the whole of her in- 


fluence to furthering my wishes. Many were the pleasant 
luncheons and dinners attended by the powers of those days 
which occupied the two months of these strenuous negotia 
tions. But all without avail! The obstacle to my going to 
Egypt was at once too powerful and too remote to be within 
her reach. She even went so far as to write personally to Sir 
Herbert Kitchener, whom she knew quite well, on my ac 
count. He replied with the utmost politeness that he had 
already more than enough officers for the campaign, that 
he was overwhelmed with applications from those who had 
what would appear to be far greater claims and qualifica 
tions, but that if at some future time opportunity occurred, 
he would be pleased, etc., etc. 

We were already at the end of June. The general advance 
of the army must take place early in August. It was not a 
matter of weeks but of days. 

But now at this moment a quite unexpected event oc 
curred. Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, whose political 
relations with my father had not been without their tragic 
aspect, happened to read The Malakand Field Force. He 
appears to have been not only interested but attracted by 
it. Spontaneously and c out of the blue/ he formed a wish 
to make the acquaintance of its author. One morning at the 
beginning of July, I received a letter from his Private Secre 
tary, Sir Schomberg M'Donnell informing me that the Prime 
Minister had read my book with great pleasure and would 
very much like to discuss some parts of it with me. Could I 
make it convenient to pay him a visit one day at the Foreign 
Office? Four o'clock on the Tuesday following would be 
agreeable to him, if it fell in with my arrangements. I re 
plied, as the reader will readily surmise, *Will a duck swim?* 
or words to that effect. 

The Great Man, Master of the British world, the unchal 
lenged leader of the Conservative Party, a third time Prime 
Minister and Foreign Secretary at the height of his long 
career, received me at the appointed hour, and I entered for 



the first time that spacious room overlooking the Horse- 
guards Parade in which I was afterwards for many years 
from time to time to see much grave business done in Peace 
and War. 

There was a tremendous air about this wise old States 
man. Lord Salisbury, for all his resistance to modern ideas, 
and perhaps in some way because of it, played a greater part 
in gathering together the growing strength of the British 
Empire for a time of trial which few could foresee and none 
could measure, than any other historic figure that can be 
cited. I remember well the old-world courtesy with which 
he met me at the door and with a charming gesture of wel 
come and salute conducted me to a seat on a small sofa in 
the midst of his vast room. 

C I have been keenly interested in your book. I have read 
it with the greatest pleasure and, if I may say so, with ad 
miration not only for its matter but for its style. The debates 
in both Houses of Parliament about the Indian frontier 
policy have been acrimonious, much misunderstanding has 
confused them. I myself have been able to form a truer pic 
ture of the kind of fighting that has been going on in these 
frontier valleys from your writings than from any other 
documents which it has been my duty to read.' 

I thought twenty minutes would be about the limit of my 
favour, which I had by no means the intention to outrun, 
and I accordingly made as if to depart after that period had 
expired. But he kept me for over half an hour, and when 
he finally conducted me again across the wide expanse of 
carpet to the door, he dismissed me in the following terms, 
'I hope you will allow me to say how much you remind me 
of your father, with whom such important days of my politi 
cal life were lived. If there is anything at any time that I 
can do which would be of assistance to you, pray do not fail 
to let me know.* 

When I got back to my home I pondered long and anxi 
ously over this parting invitation. I did not want to put 



the old Lord to trouble on my account. On the other hand, 
it seemed to me that the merest indication on his part would 
suffice to secure me what at that time I desired most of all 
in the world. A word from the Prime Minister, his great 
supporter, would surely induce Sir Herbert Kitchener to 
waive his quite disproportionate opposition to my modest 
desires. In after years when I myself disposed of these 
matters on an enormous scale, when young men begged to 
be allowed to take part in actual fighting and when the 
curmudgeons of red tape interposed their veto, I used to 
brush these objections aside saying, c After all they are only 
asking to stop a bullet. Let them have their way.' 

Accordingly, after several days' consideration I had re 
course to Sir Schomberg M'Donnell whom I had seen and 
met in social circles since I was a child. By then it was the 
third week in July. There seemed absolutely no other way 
of reaching the Atbara Army before the advance to Khar 
toum began. I sought him out late one evening and found 
him dressing for dinner. Would the Prime Minister send 
a telegram to Sir Herbert Kitchener? The War Office had 
recommended me, my regiment had given me leave, the 2ist 
Lancers were quite willing to accept me, there was no other 
obstacle of any sort or kind. Was it asking too much? Would 
he find out tentatively how Lord Salisbury felt about it? 

C I am sure he will do his best, 3 he said. *He is very pleased 
with you, but he won't go beyond a certain point. He may 
be willing to ask the question in such a way as to indicate 
what he would like the answer to be. You must not expect 
him to press it, if the answer is unfavourable/ 1 said I would 
be quite content with this. 

'I'll do it at once,' said this gallant man, who was such an 
invaluable confidant and stand-by to Lord Salisbury during 
his long reign, and who in after years, at a very advanced 
age, insisted on proceeding to the trenches of the Great War, 
and was almost immediately killed by a shrapnel shell. 

Off he went, discarding his dinner party, in search of his 



Chief. Before darkness closed a telegram had gone to the 
Sirdar to the effect that while of course Lord Salisbury 
would not think of interfering with the Sirdar's wishes or 
discretion in the matter of subordinate appointments, he 
would be greatly pleased on personal grounds if my wish to 
take part in the impending operations could without disad 
vantage to the public service be acceded to. Swiftly, by re 
turn wire, came the answer: Sir Herbert Kitchener had 
already all the Officers he required, and if any vacancies 
occurred, there were others whom he would be bound to 
prefer before the young officer in question. 

This sour intimation was in due course conveyed to me. 
If I had been found wanting at this moment in perseverance, 
I should certainly never have shared in the stirring episodes 
of the Battle of Omdurman. But in the interval a piece of 
information had come into my possession which opened up 
the prospect of one last effort. 

Sir Francis Jeune, one of our most eminent Judges, had 
always been a friend of my family. His wife, now Lady 
St. Helier, moved much in military circles, and frequently 
met Sir Evelyn Wood, the Adjutant-General. Her subse 
quent work on the London County Council may be taken 
as the measure of the abilities which she employed and the 
influence which she exercised on men and affairs. She told 
me that Sir Evelyn Wood had expressed the opinion in her 
hearing at a dinner table that Sir Herbert Kitchener was 
going too far in picking and choosing between particular 
officers recommended by the War Office, and that he, for 
his part, was not at all disposed to see the War Office com 
pletely set aside by the Commander in the Field of what 
was after all a very small part of the British Army. The 
Egyptian Army no doubt was a sphere within which the 
Sirdar's wishes must be absolute, but the British .contingent 
(of ^an Infantry Division, a Brigade of Artillery an4 a 
British Cavalry regiment, the 2ist Lancers) was 9, part of 
the Expeditionary Force, the internal composition of which 

1 66 


rested exclusively with the War Office. She told me indeed 
that Sir Evelyn Wood had evinced considerable feeling upon 
this subject. Then I said 'Have you told him that the Prime 
Minister has telegraphed personally on my behalf? 5 She said 
she had not. 'Do so,' I said, 'and let us see whether he will 
stand up for his prerogatives.' 

Two days later I received the following laconic intima 
tion from the War Office. 

'You have been attached as a supernumerary Lieutenant 
to the 2 ist Lancers for the Soudan Campaign. You are to 
report at once at the Abassiyeh Barracks, Cairo, to the Regi 
mental Headquarters. It is understood that you will pro 
ceed at your own expense and that in the event of your 
being killed or wounded in the impending operations, or 
for any other reason, no charge of any kind will fall on 
British Army funds.' 

Oliver Borthwick, son of the proprietor of the Morning 
Post and most influential in the conduct of the paper, was 
a contemporary and a great friend of mine. Feeling the 
force of Napoleon's maxim that 'war should support war', 
I arranged that night with Oliver that I should write as 
opportunity served a series of letters to the Morning Post 
at 15 a column. The President of the Psychical Research 
Society extracted rather unseasonably a promise from me 
after dinner to 'communicate' with him, should anything 
unfortunate occur. I caught the u o'clock train for Mar 
seilles the next morning. My mother waved me off in gal 
lant style. Six days later I was in Cairo. 

All was excitement and hustle at Abassiyeh Barracks. Two 
squadrons of the 2ist Lancers had already started up the 
Nile. The other two were to leave the next morning. Alto 
gether seven additional officers from other cavalry regiments 
had been attached to the 2ist to bring them up to full war- 
strength. These officers were distributed in command of 


troops about the various squadrons. A troop had been re 
served for me in one of the leading squadrons. But the delay 
and uncertainty about my coming had given this to another. 
Second-Lieutenant Robert Grenfell had succeeded in ob 
taining this vacancy. He had gone off in the highest spirits. 
At the base everyone believed that we should be too late for 
the battle. Perhaps the first two squadrons might get up in 
time, but no one could tell. 'Fancy how lucky I am,' wrote 
Grenfell to his family. 'Here I have got the troop that 
would have been Winston's, and we are to be the first to 
start.' Chance is unceasingly at work in our lives, but we 
cannot always see its workings sharply and clearly defined. 
As it turned out, this troop was practically cut to pieces in 
the charge which the regiment made in the battle of Septem 
ber 2, and its brave young leader was killed. He was the 
first of that noble line of Grenfells to give his life in the 
wars of the Empire. Two of his younger brothers were 
killed in the Great War, one after gaining the Victoria 
Cross; and his own ardent spirit was the equal of theirs. 

The movement of the regiment 1,400 miles into the heart 
of Africa was effected with the swiftness, smoothness and 
punctuality which in those days characterised all Kitchener's 
arrangements. We were transported by train to Assiout$ 
thence by stern-wheeled steamers to Assouan. We led our 
horses round the cataract at Philse; re-embarked on other 
steamers at Shellalj voyaged four days to Wady Half a j and 
from there proceeded 400 miles across the desert by the 
marvellous military railway whose completion had sealed 
the fate of the Dervish power. In exactly a fortnight from 
leaving Cairo we arrived in the camp and railway base of 
the army, where the waters of the Atbara flow into the 
mighty Nile. 

The journey was delightful. The excellent arrangements 
made for our comfort and convenience, the cheery company, 
the novel and vivid scenery which streamed past, the excite 
ment and thoughtless gaiety with which everyone looked 



forward to the certainly-approaching battle and to the part 
that would be played in it by the only British cavalry regi 
ment with the army all combined to make the experience 
pleasant. But I was pursued and haunted by a profound, 
unrelenting fear. I had not heard a word in Cairo of how 
Sir Herbert Kitchener had received the over-riding by the 
War Office of his wishes upon my appointment. I imagined 
telegrams of protest on his part to the War Office which 
would indeed put their resolution to the proof. Exaggerat 
ing, as one's anxious mind is prone to do, I pictured the 
Adjutant-General seriously perturbed in Whitehall by the 
stern remonstrance, or perhaps even obstinate resistance, of 
the almost all-powerful Commander-in-Chief. I expected 
every moment an order of recall. Besides, I was now under 
the Sirdar's command. Nothing would be easier than for 
him to utter the words, 'Send him back to the base^ let him 
come on with the remounts after the battle'; or a score of 
equally detestable combinations. Every time the train drew 
up at a station, every time the stern-wheeled steamers pad 
dled their way to a landing-stage, I scanned the crowd with 
hunted eyes 5 and whenever the insignia of a Staff Officer 
were visible, I concluded at once that the worst had over 
taken me. I suppose a criminal flying from justice goes 
through the same emotions at every stopping-point. Thank 
God, there was no wireless in those days or I should never 
have had a moment's peace. One could not, of course, escape 
the ordinary telegraph. Its long coils wrapped one round 
even then. But at least there were interludes of four or five 
days when we plashed our way peacefully forward up the 
great river out of all connection with the uncharitable world. 
However, as the stages of the journey succeeded one 
another without any catastrophe, Hope began to grow 
stronger in my breast. By the time we reached Wady Haifa 
I had begun to reason with myself in a more confident mood. 
Surely on the eve of his most critical and decisive battle, 
laden with all the immensely complicated business of a con- 



centration and advance the smallest details of which, as is 
well known, he personally supervised, the Sirdar might find 
something else to occupy his mind and forget to put a spoke 
in the wheel of an unfortunate subaltern. Perhaps he might 
not have time or patience to wrangle with the War Office 
in cipher telegrams. He might forget. Best of all, he might 
not even have been told! And when on the evening of 
August 14 we ferried ourselves across from the Atbara camp 
to the left of the Nile, preparatory to beginning our 200 
mile march to the Dervish capital, I felt entitled like Agag 
to believe that c the bitterness of death was past.* 

My efforts were not after all to miscarry. Sir Herbert 
Kitchener, as I afterwards learned, confronted with my 
appointment by the War Office, had simply shrugged his 
shoulders and passed on to what were after all matters of 
greater concern. 



NOTHING like the Battle of Omdurman will ever be seen 
again. It was the last link in the long chain of those 
spectacular conflicts whose vivid and majestic splendour has 
done so much to invest war with glamour. Everything was 
visible to the naked eye. The armies marched and manoeu 
vred on the crisp surface of the desert plain through which 
the Nile wandered in broad reaches, now steel, now brass* 
Cavalry charged at full gallop in close order, and infantry 
or spearmen stood upright ranged in lines or masses to re 
sist them. From the rocky hills which here and there flanked 
the great river the whole scene lay revealed in minute detail, 
curiously twisted, blurred and interspersed with phantom 
waters by the mirage. The finite and concrete presented it 
self in the most keenly-chiselled forms, and then dissolved 
in a shimmer of unreality and illusion. Long streaks of 
gleaming water, where we knew there was only desert, cut 
across the knees or the waists of marching troops. Batteries 
of artillery or long columns of cavalry emerged from a 
filmy world of uneven crystal on to the hard yellow-ochre 
sand, and took up their positions amid jagged red-black 
rocks with violet shadows. Over all the immense dome of 
the sky, dun to turquoise, turquoise to deepest blue, pierced 
by the flaming sun, weighed hard and heavy on marching 
necks and shoulders. 

The 2 ist Lancers, having crossed to the left bank of 
the Nile at its confluence with the Atbara in the evening 
of August 15, journeyed forward by nine days' march to 
the advanced concentration camp just north of the Shab- 
luka Cataract. This feature is peculiar. Across the 4,000- 
mile course of the Nile to the Mediterranean, Nature has 



here flung a high wall of rock. The river, instead of making 
a ten-mile detour round its western extremity, has pre 
ferred a frontal attack, and has pierced or discovered a 
way through the very centre of the obstructing mass. The 
Shabluka position was considered to be formidable. It was 
impossible to ascend the cataract in boats and steamers in 
any force that would be effective, unless the whole range of 
hills had first been turned from the desert flank. Such an 
operation would have presented a fine tactical opportunity 
to a Dervish army crouched behind the Shabluka hills ready 
to strike at the flank of any army making the indispensable 
turning movement. It was therefore no doubt with great 
relief that Sir Herbert Kitchener received from his cavalry, 
his scouts and his spies, the assurance that this strong posi 
tion was left undefended by the enemy. 

Nevertheless, all the precautions of war were observed in 
making the critical march through the desert round the end 
of the hills. All the mounted forces made a wide circling 
movement. For us, although we were only on the inner 
flank, the distance was perhaps 25 miles from our morning 
watering-place on the Nile bank north of the Shabluka to 
where we reached the river again at the evening bivouac on 
the southern and Omdurman side of the barrier. Those of 
us who, like my troop, composed the advance patrols, ex 
pected as we filtered through the thorn scrub to find ene 
mies behind every bush, and we strained our ears and eyes 
and waited at every instant the first clatter of musketry. 
But except for a few fleeting horsemen, no hostile sight or 
sound disturbed or even diversified our march, and when 
the vast plain reddened in the sunset, we followed our 
lengthening shadows peacefully but thirstily again to the 
sweet waters of the river. Meanwhile the flat-bottomed 
gunboats and stern-wheel steamers, drawing endless tows of 
sailing boats carrying our supplies, had safely negotiated the 
cataract, and by the 27th all our forces, desert and river, 
were concentrated South of the Shabluka hills with only 



five clear marches over open plain to the city of our quest. 

On the 28th the army set forth on its final advance. We 
moved in full order of battle and by stages of only eight or 
ten miles a day so as to save all our strength for the collision 
at any moment. We carried nothing with us but what we 
and our horses stood up in. We drew our water and food 
each night from the Nile and its armada. The heat in this 
part of Africa and at this time of the year was intense. In 
spite of thick clothes, spine-pads, broad-brimmed pitch hel 
mets, one felt the sun leaning down upon one and pierc 
ing our bodies with his burning rays. The canvas water-bags 
which hung from our saddles, agreeably cool from their 
own evaporation, were drained long before the afternoons 
had worn away. How delicious it was in the evenings when, 
the infantry having reached and ordered their bivouac, the 
cavalry screen was withdrawn, and we filed down in gold 
and purple twilight to drink and drink and drink again from 
the swift abundant Nile. 

Of course by this time everyone in the British cavalry had 
made up his mind that there was to be no battle. Was it 
not all humbug? Did the Dervishes exist, or were they just 
myths created by the Sirdar and his Anglo-Egyptian entour 
age? The better-informed held that, while there were no 
doubt a lot of Dervishes gathered at Omdurman, they had 
all decided to avoid battle and were already streaming off 
hundreds of miles along the roads to distant Kordofan. 
*We shall be marching like this towards the Equator for 
months and months.' Well, never mind. It was a pleasant 
occupation, a jolly life 5 health was good, exercise exhilarat 
ing, food sufficient, and at dawn and dusk at least water 
unlimited. We were seeing a new land all the time, and 
perhaps after all some day we might see something else. 
But when I dined on the night of the 3ist in the mess of the 
British officers of a Soudanese battalion, I found a different 
opinion. 'They are all there/ said these men, who had 
.been fighting the Dervishes for ten years. They would cer- 


tainly *put up a battle 5 for the capital of their Empire. 
They weren't the sort to run. We should find them drawn 
up outside the dtyj and the city was now only 18 miles 

Our march of September I began like all the others in 
perfect calm, but towards nine o'clock our patrols began to 
see things. Reports trickled back through troops to squad 
rons of white patches and gleams of light amid the mirage 
glitter which shrouded the southern horizon. The squadron 
to which I belonged was that day employed only in support 
of the advanced screen, and we rode slowly forward with 
suppressed and growing excitement. At about half-past ten 
we topped a broad swell of sand and saw before us, scarcely 
a mile away, all our advanced patrols and parties halted 
in a long line, observing something which lay apparently 
immediately across their path. Soon we also were ordered 
to halt, and presently a friendly subaltern who had been 
on patrol came along with what to us was momentous and 
decisive news. 'Enemy in sight/ he said, beaming. c Where?' 
we asked. 'There, can't you see? Look at that long brown 
smear. That's them. They haven't bolted,' and he went on 
his way. We had all noticed this dark discoloration of the 
distant horizon, but had taken it to be a forest of thorn- 
bushes. The best field-glasses failed to disclose any other 
impression from the point where we were halted. Then came 
the regimental-sergeant-major, also coming back from the 
outpost line. 

c How many are there?' we asked. 

C A good army,' he replied. 'Quite a good army,' and he 
too went on his way. 

Next came an order for the support to send a subaltern 
whose horse was not exhausted up to the Colonel in the out 
post line. 

n Churchill/ said my squadron leader, and off I 

There was a shallow dip followed by another rise of 



ground before I found Colonel Martin in the outpost line 
near some sandhills. 1 

'Good morning/ he said. 'The enemy has just begun to 
advance. They are coming on pretty fast. I want you to 
see the situation for yourself, and then go back as quickly as 
you can without knocking up your horse, and report person 
ally to the Sirdar. You will find him marching with the 

So I was to meet Kitchener after all! Would he be sur 
prised to see me? Would he be angry? Would he say 'What 
the devil are you doing here? I thought I told you not to 
come.' Would he be disdainfully indifferent? Or would he 
merely receive the report without troubling to inquire the 
name of the officer who brought it? Anyhow, one could not 
have a better reason of service for accosting the great man 
than the news that a hostile army was advancing against him. 
The prospect interested and excited me as much as the ap 
proaching battle, and the possibilities in the rear seemed in 
no way less interesting, and in some respects not less for 
midable, than the enemy on our front. 

Having thoroughly observed the enemy and been told all 
that there was to tell in the outpost line, I started to trot and 
* canter across the six miles of desert which separated the ad 
vanced cavalry from the main body of the army. The heat 
was scorching, and as I thought it almost certain we should 
be fighting on horseback all the afternoon, I took as much 
care of my horse as the urgency of my orders allowed. In 
consequence nearly forty minutes had passed before I began 
to approach the mass of the infantry. I paused for a moment 
to rest my horse and survey the scene from the spur of a 
black rocky hill which gave a general view. The sight was 
truly magnificent. The British and Egyptian army was ad 
vancing in battle array. Five solid brigades of three or four 
infantry battalions each, marching in open columns, eche 
loned back from the Nile. Behind these great blocks of men 

^ee map on page 195. 



followed long rows of artillery, and beyond these there 
trailed out interminable strings of camels carrying supplies. 
On the river abreast of the leading brigade moved masses of 
heavily-laden sailing-boats towed by a score of stern-wheel 
steamers, and from this mass there emerged gleaming grimly 
seven or eight large white gunboats ready for action. On the 
desert flank and towards the enemy a dozen squadrons "of 
Egyptian cavalry at wide intervals could be seen supporting 
the outpost line, and still further inland the grey and choco 
late columns of the Camel Corps completed the spacious 

Having breathed my horse, for I did not wish to arrive in 
a flurry, I rode towards the centre of the infantry masses. 
Soon I saw at their head a considerable cavalcade following 
a bright red banner. Drawing nearer I saw the Union Jack 
by the side of the Egyptian flag. Kitchener was riding alone 
two or three horses 5 lengths in front of his Headquarters 
Staff. His two standard-bearers marched immediately behind 
him, and the principal officers of the Anglo-Egyptian army 
staff followed in his train exactly as one would expect from 
the picture-books. 

I approached at an angle, made a half circle, drew my 
horse alongside and slightly in rear of him, and saluted. It' 
was the first time I had ever looked upon that remarkable 
countenance, already well known, afterwards and probably 
for generations to be familiar to the whole world. He turned 
his grave face upon me. The heavy moustaches, the queer 
rolling look of the eyes, the sunburnt and almost purple 
cheeks and jowl made a vivid manifestation upon the senses. 

'Sir/ I said, C I have come from the 2ist Lancers with a 
report/ He made a slight nod as a signal for me to continue. 
I described the situation in terms which I had studied on my 
ride to make as compendious as possible. The enemy were in 
sight, apparently in large numbers 5 their main body lay 
about seven miles away and almost directly between our 
present position and the city of Omdurman. Up to 1 1 o'clock 



they had remained stationary, but at five minutes past eleven 
they were seen to be in motion, and when I left forty min 
utes before they were still advancing rapidly. 

He listened in absolute silence to every word, our horses 
crunching the sand as we rode forward side by side. Then, 
after a considerable pause, he said, 'You say the Dervish 
Army is advancing. How long do you think I have got? 3 
My answer came out in a flash: 'You have got at least an 
k our probably an hour and a half, sir, even if they come 
on at their present rate.' He tossed his head in a way that left 
me in doubt whether he accepted or rejected this estimate, 
and then with a slight bow signified that my mission was dis 
charged. I saluted, reined my horse in, and let his retinue 
flow past. 

I began to calculate speeds and distances rather anxiously 
in order to see whether my precipitate answer conformed to 
reason. In the result I was pretty sure I was not far out. 
Taking four miles an hour as the maximum rate at which 
the Dervish jog-trot could cover what I judged to be 
seven miles, an hour and a half was a safe and sure margin. 

These meditations were broken in upon by a friendly 
voice. 'Come along with us and have some lunch.' It was 
an officer on the Staff of Sir Reginald Wingate, the Direc 
tor of the Intelligence of the army. He presented me to his 
Chief, who received me kindly. I need scarcely say that a 
square meal, a friend at court, and the prospect of getting 
the best information on coming events, were triply agree 
able. Meanwhile I saw that the infantry everywhere were 
forming into lines making an arc against the Nile, and 
that in front of the leading brigade thorn-bushes were 
being busily cut down and fastened into a zeriba. Then 
right in our path appeared a low wall of biscuit boxes which 
was being rapidly constructed, ,and on the top of this wall I 
perceived a long stretch of white oil-cloth on which again 
were being placed many bottles of inviting appearance and 
large dishes of bully beef and mixed pickles. This grateful 



sight arising as if by enchantment in the wilderness on the 
verge of battle filled my heart with a degree of thankfulness 
far exceeding what one usually experiences when regular 
Grace is said. 

Everybody dismounted, orderlies surged up to lead away 
the horses. As this repast came into view, I lost sight of 
Kitchener. He seemed to have withdrawn a little from the 
Staff. Whether he lunched on a separate pile of biscuit boxes 
all to himself or whether he had no luncheon at all, I 
neither knew nor cared. I attacked the bully beef and cool 
drink with concentrated attention. Everyone was in the high 
est spirits and the best of tempers. It was like a race lunch 
eon before the Derby. I remember that I found myself next 
to the representative of the German General Staff Baron 
von Tiedemann. 'This is the ist of September/ he said. 'Our 
great day and now your great day: Sedan and Soudan.' 
He was greatly pleased with this and repeated it several 
times to the company, some of whom thought they detected 
sarcasm. 'Is there really going to be a battle? 5 I asked 
General Wingate. 'Certainly, rather, 5 he replied. 'When? 5 
I said, 'to-morrow? 5 'No,' he said, 'here, now, in an hour 
or two. 5 It really was a good moment to live, and I, a poor 
subaltern who had thought himself under a ban, plied my 
knife and fork with determination amid the infectious gaiety 
of all these military magnates. 

All the time one could see the lines of the Infantry being 
rapidly marshalled, and the thorn fences growing in front 
of them from minute to minute. Before us the bare sand 
plain swept gently up from the river to a crescent rise 
beyond which were our cavalry outposts and, presumably, 
the steadily advancing foe. In an hour that arena would 
swarm with charging Dervishes, and be heaped with dead, 
while the lines of infantry behind the thorn zeriba blazed 
their rifle-fire and all the cannon boomed. Of course we 
should win, Of course we should mow them down. Still, 
nevertheless, these same Dervishes, in spite of all the pre- 



cision of modern weapons, had more than once as at Abu 
Klea and Tamai broken British squares, and again and again 
had pierced through or overwhelmed fronts held only by 
Egyptian troops. I pictured on the plain, in my imagina 
tion, several possible variants of the battle that seemed so 
imminent and so near 5 and then, as if to proclaim its open 
ing Bang, Bang, Bang, went the howitzer battery firing 
from an island upon the Mahdi's tomb in Omdurman. 

However, there was to be no battle on September I. I 
had scarcely rejoined my squadron in the outpost line when 
the Dervish army came to a standstill, and after giving a 
tremendous feu de joie seemed to settle down for the night. 
We watched them all the afternoon and evening, and our 
patrols skirmished and scampered about with theirs. It was 
not until the light faded that we returned to the Nile 
and were ordered to tuck away our men and horses within 
the zeriba under the steep bank of the river. 

In this sheltered but helpless posture we were informed 
that trustworthy news had been received that the enemy 
would attack by night. The most severe penalties were de 
nounced against anyone who in any circumstances whatever 
even to save his life fired a shot from pistol or carbine 
inside the perimeter of the thorn fence. If the Dervishes 
broke the line and penetrated the camp, we were to defend 
ourselves by fighting on foot with our lances or swords. 
We reassured ourselves by the fact that the ist Battalion 
of the Grenadiers and a battalion of the Rifle Brigade oc 
cupied the line of the zeriba 100 yards away and immedi 
ately above us. Confiding our safety to these fine troops, we 
addressed ourselves to preparations for dinner. 

In this domain a happy experience befell me. As I strolled 
in company with a brother officer along the river bank we 
were hailed from the gunboats which lay 20 or 30 feet 
from the shore. The vessel was commanded by a junior 
naval Lieutenant named Beatty who had long served in the 
Nile flotillas, and was destined to fame on blue water. The 



gunboat officers, spotlessly attired in white uniforms, were 
eager to learn what the cavalry had seen, and we were by no 
means unwilling to tell. We had a jolly talk across the 
stretch of water while the sun sank. They were particularly 
pleased to learn of the orders against the use of firearms 
inside the zeriba, and made many lugubrious jokes at our 
expense. This included offering us hospitality on the gun 
boat if the worst came to the worst. We put the suggestion 
aside with dignity and expressed our confidence in the plan 
of using cavalry swords and lances on foot amid the sand 
dunes against a Dervish mob in pitch darkness. After a 
good deal of chaff came the piece of good fortune. 

'How are you off for drinks? We have got everything 
in the world on board here. Can you catch?' and almost 
immediately a large bottle of champagne was thrown from 
the gunboat to the shore. It fell in the waters of the Nile, 
but happily where a gracious Providence decreed them to 
be shallow and the bottom soft. I nipped into the water 
up to my knees, and reaching down seized the precious gift 
which we bore in triumph back to our mess. 

This kind of war was full of fascinating thrills. It was 
not like the Great War. Nobody expected to be killed. Here 
and there in every regiment or battalion, half a dozen, a 
score, at the worst thirty or forty, would pay the forfeit 5 
but to the great mass of those who took part in the little 
wars of Britain in those vanished light-hearted days, this 
was only a sporting element in a splendid game. Most of 
us were fated to see a war where the hazards were reversed, 
where death was the general expectation and severe wounds 
were counted as lucky escapes, where whole brigades were 
shorn away under the steel flail of artillery and machine- 
guns, where the survivors of one tornado knew that they 
would certainly be consumed in the next or the next after 

Everything depends upon the scale of events. We young 
men who lay down to sleep that night within three miles of 



60,000 well-armed fanatical Dervishes, expecting every mo 
ment their violent onset or inrush and sure of fighting at 
latest with the dawn we may perhaps be pardoned if we 
thought we were at grips with real war. 



EING before the dawn we were astir, and by five o'clock 
the 2ist Lancers were drawn up mounted outside the 
zeriba. My squadron-leader Major Finn, an Australian by 
birth, had promised me some days before that he would give 
me *a show' when the time came. I was afraid that he 
would count my mission to Lord Kitchener the day before 
as quittance 5 but I was now called out from my troop to 
advance with a patrol and reconnoitre the ridge between the 
rocky peak of Jebel Surgham and the river. Other patrols 
from our squadron and from the Egyptian cavalry were also 
sent hurrying forward in the darkness. I took six men and 
a corporal. We trotted fast over the plain and soon began 
to breast the unknown slopes of the ridge. There is nothing 
like the dawn* The quarter of an hour before the curtain 
is lifted upon an unknowable situation is an intense experi 
ence of war. Was the ridge held by the enemy or not? Were 
we riding through the gloom into thousands of ferocious 
savages? Every step might be deadly; yet there was "no time 
for overmuch precaution. The regiment was coming on 
behind us, and dawn was breaking. It was already half light 
as we climbed the slope. What should we find at the sum 
mit? For cool, tense excitement I commend such moments. 
Now we are near the top of the ridge. I make one man 
follow a hundred yards behind, so that whatever happens, 
he may tell the tale. There is no sound but our own clatter. 
We have reached the crest line. We rein in our horses. 
Every minute the horizon extends 5 we can already see 200 
yards. Now we can see perhaps a quarter of a mile. All is 
qoietf no life but our own breathes among the rocks and 
sand hummocks of the ridge. No ambuscade, no occupation 



in force! The farther plain is bare below us: we can now 
see more than half a mile. 

So they have all decamped! Just what we said! All 
bolted off to Kordofanj no battle! But wait! The dawn 
is growing fast. Veil after veil is lifted from the landscape. 
What is this shimmering in the distant plain? Nay it is 
lighter now what are these dark markings beneath the 
shimmer? They are there! These enormous black smears 
are thousands of men $ the shimmering is the glinting of 
their weapons. It is now daylight. I slip off my horsey I 
write in my field service notebook 'The Dervish army is 
still in position a mile and a half south-west of Jebel Surg- 
ham.' I send this message by the corporal direct as ordered 
to the Commander-in-Chief . I mark it XXX. In the words 
of the drill book *with all despatch' or as one would say *Hell 
for leather.* 

A glorious sunrise is taking place behind us 5 but we are 
admiring something else. It is already light enough to use 
field-glasses. The dark masses are changing their values. 
They are already becoming lighter than the plain 5 they 
are fawn-coloured. Now they are a kind of white, while the 
plain is dun. In front of us is a vast array four or five miles 
long. It fills the horizon till it is blocked out on our right 
by the serrated silhouette of Surgham Peak. This is an hour 
to live. We mount again, and suddenly new impressions 
strike the eye and mind. These masses are not stationary. 
They are advancing, and they are advancing fast A tide is 
coming in. But what is this sound which we hear: a dead 
ened roar coming up to us in waves? They are cheering for 
God, his Prophet and his holy Khalifa. They think they are 
going to win. We shall see about that presently. Still I 
must admit that we check our horses and hang upon the 
crest of the ridge for a few moments before advancing down 
its slopes. 

But now it is broad morning and the slanting sun adds 
brilliant colour to the scene. The masses have defined them- 



selves into swarms of men, in ordered ranks bright with 
glittering weapons, and above them dance a multitude of 
gorgeous flags. We see for ourselves what the Crusaders 
saw. We must see more of it. I trot briskly forward to some 
where near the sandhills where the 2ist Lancers had halted 
the day before. Here we are scarcely 400 yards away from 
the great masses. We halt again and I make four troopers 
fire upon them, while the other two hold their horses. The 
enemy come on like the sea. A crackle of musketry breaks 
out on our front and to our left. Dust spurts rise among the 
sandhills. This is no place for Christians. We scamper off; 
and luckily no man nor horse is hurt. We climb back on to the 
ridge, and almost at this moment there returns the corporal 
on a panting horse. He comes direct from Kitchener with 
an order signed by the Chief of Staff. 'Remain as long as 
possible, and report how the masses of attack are moving/ 
Talk of Fun! Where will you beat this! On horseback, at 
daybreak, within shot of an advancing army, seeing every 
thing, and corresponding direct with Headquarters. 

So we remained on the ridge for nearly half an hour and 
I watched close up a scene which few have witnessed. All 
the masses except one passed for a time out of our view 
beyond the peak of Surgham on our right. But one, a divi 
sion of certainly 6,ooo men moved directly over the shoul 
der of the ridge. Already they were climbing its forward 
slopes. From where we sat on our hordes we could see both 
sides. There was dur army ranked and massed by the river. 
There were the gunboats lying expectant in the stream. 
There were all the batteries ready to open. And meanwhile 
on the other side, this large oblong gay-coloured crowd in 
fairly good order climbed swiftly up to the crest of ex 
posure. We were about 2,500 yards from our own batteries, 
"bit little more than 200 from their approaching target. I 
called these Dervishes 'The White Flags/ They reminded 
me of the armies in the Bayeux tapestries, because of their 
raws of white and yellow standards held upright. Mean- 



while the Dervish centre far out in the plain had come 
within range, and one after another the British and Egyptian 
batteries opened upon it. My eyes were rivetted by a nearer 
scene. At the top of the hill 'The White Flags' paused to 
rearrange their ranks and drew out a broad and solid parade 
along the crest. Then the cannonade turned upon them. Two 
or three batteries and all the gunboats, at least thirty guns, 
opened an intense fire. Their shells shrieked towards us and 
burst in scores over the heads and among the masses of the 
White Flag-men. We were so close, as we sat spellbound 
on our horses, that we almost shared their perils. I saw the 
full blast of Death strike this human wall. Down went their 
standards by dozens and their men by hundreds. Wide gaps 
and shapeless heaps appeared in their array. One saw them 
jumping and tumbling under the shrapnel bursts ; but none 
turned back. Line after line they all streamed over the 
shoulder and advanced towards our zeriba, opening a heavy 
rifle fire which wreathed them in smoke. 

Hitherto no one had taken any notice of us 5 but I now 
saw Baggara horsemen in twos and threes riding across the 
plain on our left towards the ridge. One of these patrols of 
three men came within pistol range. They were dark, cowled 
figures, like monks on horseback ugly, sinister brutes with 
long spears. I fired a few shots at them from the saddle, and 
they sheered off. I did not see why we should not stop out 
on this ridge during the assault. I thought we could edge 
back towards the Nile and so watch both sides while keep 
ing out of harm's way. But now arrived a positive order 
from Major Finn, whom I had perforce left out of my 
correspondence with the Commander-in-Chief , saying 'Come 
back at once into the zeriba as the infantry are about to open 
fire. 5 We should in fact have been safer on the ridge, for 
we only just got into the infantry lines before the rifle-storm 



It is not my purpose in this record of personal impres 
sions to give a general account of the Battle of Omdur- 
man. The story has been told -so often and in such exact 
military detail that everyone who is interested in the subject 
is no doubt well acquainted with what took place. I shall 
only summarise the course of the battle so far as may be 
necessary to explain my own experiences. 

The whole of the Khalifa's army, nearly 60,000 strong, 
advanced in battle order from their encampment of the 
night before, topped the swell of ground which hid the 
two armies from one another, and then rolled down the 
gently-sloping amphitheatre in the arena of which, backed 
upon the Nile, Kitchener's 20,000 troops were drawn up 
shoulder to shoulder to receive them. Ancient and modern 
confronted one another. The weapons, the methods and the 
fanaticism of the Middle Ages were brought by an extraordi 
nary anachronism into dire collision with the organisation 
and inventions of the nineteenth century. The result was not 
surprising. As the successors of the Saracens descended the 
long smooth slopes which led to the river and their enemy, 
they encountered the rifle fire of two and a half divisions 
of trained infantry, drawn up two deep and in close order 
and supported by at least 70 guns on the river bank and in 
the gunboats, all firing with undisturbed efficiency. Under 
this fire the whole attack withered and came to a standstill, 
with a loss of perhaps six or seven thousand men, at least 
700 yards away from the British-Egyptian line. The Der 
vish army, however, possessed nearly 20,000 rifles of vari 
ous kinds, from the most antiquated to the most modern, 
and when the spearmen could get no farther, these riflemen 
lay down on the plain and began a ragged, unaimed but con 
siderable fusillade at the dark line of the thorn-fence zeriba. 
Now for the first time they began to inflict losses on their 
antagonists, and in the short space that this lasted perhaps 
two hundred casualties occurred among the British and 
Egyptian troops. 


Seeing that the attack had been repulsed with great 
slaughter and that he was nearer to the city of Omdurman 
than the Dervish army, Kitchener immediately wheeled his 
five brigades into his usual echelon formation, and with his 
left flank on the river proceeded to march south towards the 
city, intending thereby to cut off what he considered to be 
the remnants of the Dervish army from their capital, their 
base, their food, their water, their home, and to drive them 
out into the vast deserts which stared on every side. But the 
Dervishes were by no means defeated. The whole of their 
left, having overshot the mark, had not even been under 
fire. The Khalifa's reserve of perhaps 15,000 men was still 
intact. All these swarms now advanced with undaunted cour 
age to attack the British and Egyptian forces, which were no 
longer drawn up in a prepared position, but marching freely 
over the desert. This second shock was far more critical 
than the first. The charging Dervishes succeeded every 
where in coming to within a hundred or two hundred yards 
of the troops, and the rear brigade of Soudanese, attacked 
from two directions, was only saved from destruction by the 
skill and firmness of its commander, General Hector Mao- 
donald. However, discipline and machinery triumphed over 
the most desperate valour, and after an enormous carnage, 
certainly exceeding 20,000 men, who strewed the ground in 
heaps and swathes 'like snowdrifts/ the whole mass of the 
Dervishes dissolved into fragments and into particles and 
streamed away into the fantastic mirages of the desert. 

The Egyptian cavalry and the camel corps had been pro 
tecting the right flank of the zeriba when it was attacked, 
and the 2ist Lancers were the only horsemen on the left 
flank nearest to Omdurman. Immediately after the first 
attack had been repulsed we were ordered to leave the 
zeriba, ascertain what enemy forces, if any, stood between 
Kitchener and the city, and if possible drive these forces 
back and clear the way for the advancing army. Of course 
as a regimental officer one knows very little of what is taking 


place over the whole field of battle. We waited by our horses 
during the first attack close down by the river's edge, shel 
tered by the steep Nile bank from the bullets which whistled 
overhead. As soon as the fire began to slacken and it was 
said on all sides that the attack had been repulsed, a Gen 
eral arrived with his staff at a gallop with instant orders 
to mount and advance. In two minutes the four squadrons 
were mounted and trotting out of the zeriba in a southerly 
direction. We ascended again the slopes of Jebel Surgham 
which had played its part in the first stages of the action, 
and from its ridges soon saw before us the whole plain of 
Omdurman with the vast mud city, its minarets and domes, 
spread before us six or seven miles away. After various halts 
and reconnoitrings we found ourselves walking forward in 
what is called 'column of troops.' There are four troops in 
a squadron and four squadrons in a regiment. Each of these 
troops now followed the other. I commanded the second 
troop from the rear, comprising between twenty and twenty- 
five Lancers. 

Everyone expected that we were going to make a charge. 
That was the one idea that had been in all minds since we 
had started from Cairo. Of course there would be a charge. 
In those days, before the Boer War, British cavalry had been 
taught little else. Here was clearly the occasion for a charge. 
But against what body of enemy, over what ground, in 
which direction or with what purpose, were matters hidden 
from the rank and file. We continued to pace forward over 
the hard sand, peering into the mirage-twisted plain in a 
high state of suppressed excitement. Presently I noticed, 300 
yards away on our flank and parallel to the line on which we 
were advancing, a long row of blue-black objects, two or 
three yards apart. I thought there were about a hundred and 
fifty. Then I became sure that these were men enemy 
men squatting on the ground. Almost at the same moment 
the trumpet sounded Trot/ and the whole long column of 
cavalry began to jingle and clatter across the front of these 



crouching figures. We were in the lull of the battle and 
there was perfect silence. Forthwith from every blue-black 
blob came a white puff of smoke, and a loud volley of 
musketry broke the odd stillness. Such a target at such a 
distance could scarcely be missed, and all along the column 
here and there horses bounded and a few men fell. 

The intentions of our Colonel had no doubt been to move 
round the flank of the body of Dervishes he had now located, 
and who, concealed in a fold of the ground behind their 
riflemen, were invisible to us, and then to attack them from 
a more advantageous quarter 5 but once the fire was opened 
and losses began to grow, he must have judged it inexpedi 
ent to prolong his procession across the open plain. The 
trumpet sounded 'Right wheel into line/ and all the sixteen 
troops swung round towards the blue-black riflemen. Al 
most immediately the regiment broke into a gallop, and 
the 2ist Lancers were committed to their first charge in 

I propose to describe exactly what happened to me: what 
I saw and what I felt. I recalled it to my mind so frequently 
after the event that the impression is as clear and vivid as 
it was a quarter of a century ago. The troop I commanded 
was, when we wheeled into line, the second from the right 
of the regiment. I was riding a handy, sure-footed, grey 
Arab polo pony. Before we wheeled and began to gallop, 
the officers had been marching with drawn swords. On ac 
count of my shoulder I had always decided that if I were in 
volved in hand-to-hand fighting, I must use a pistol and 
not a sword. I had purchased in London a Mauser auto 
matic pistol, then the newest and the latest design. I had 
practised carefully with this during our march and journey 
up the river. This then was the weapon with which I de 
termined to fight. I had first of all to return my sword into 
its scabbard, which is not the easiest thing to do at a gallop. 
I had then to draw my pistol from its wooden holster and 
bring it to full cock. This dual operation took an appreci- 



able time, and until it was finished, apart from a few 
glances to my left to see what eflFect the fire was producing, 
I did not look up at the general scene. 

Then I saw immediately before me, and now only half 
the length of a polo ground away, the row of crouching blue 
figures firing frantically, wreathed in white smoke. On my 
right and left my neighbouring troop leaders made a good 
line. Immediately behind was a long dancing row of lances 
couched for the charge. We were going at a fast but steady 
gallop. There was too much trampling and rifle fire to hear 
any bullets. After this glance to the right and left and at 
my troop, I looked again towards the enemy. The scene 
appeared to be suddenly transformed. The blue-black men 
were still firing, but behind them there now came into view 
a depression like a shallow sunken road. This was crowded 
and crammed with men rising up from the ground where 
they had hidden. Bright flags appeared as if by magic, and 
I saw arriving from nowhere Emirs on horseback among 
and around the mass of the enemy. The Dervishes ap 
peared to be ten or twelve deep at the thickest, a great grey 
mass gleaming with steel, filling the dry watercourse. In 
the same twinkling of an eye I saw also that our right over 
lapped their left, that my troop would just strike the edge 
of their array, and that the troop on my right would charge 
into air. My subaltern comrade on the right, Wormald of 
the 7th Hussars, could see the situation too 5 and we both 
increased our speed to the very fastest gallop and curved 
inwards like the horns of the moon. One really had not 
time to be frightened or to think of anything else but these 
particular necessary actions which I have described. They 
completely occupied mind and senses. 

l^e collision was now very near. I saw immediately be 
fore me, not ten yards away, the two blue men who lay in 
my path. They were perhaps a couple of yards apart. I rode 
at the interval between them. They both fired. I passed 
through the smoke conscious that I was unhurt. The trooper 



immediately behind me was killed at this place and at this 
moment, whether by these shots or not I do not know. I 
checked my pony as the ground began to fall away beneath 
his feet. The clever animal dropped like a cat four or five 
feet down on to the sandy bed of the watercourse, and in 
this sandy bed I found myself surrounded by what seemed 
to be dozens of men. They were not thickly packed enough 
at this point for me to experience any actual collision with 
them. Whereas GrenfelPs troop, next but one on my left, 
was brought to a complete standstill and suffered very heavy 
losses, we seemed to push our way through as one has some 
times seen mounted policemen break up a crowd. In less time 
than it takes to relate, my pony had scrambled up the other 
side of the ditch. I looked round. 

Once again I was on the hard, crisp desert, my horse at 
a trot. I had the impression of scattered Dervishes run 
ning to and fro in all directions. Straight before me a man 
threw himself on the ground. The reader must remember 
that I had been trained as a cavalry soldier to believe that 
if ever cavalry broke into a mass of infantry, the latter 
would be at their mercy. My first idea therefore was that 
the man was terrified. But simultaneously I saw the gleam 
of his curved sword as he drew it back for a ham-stringing 
cut. I had room and time enough to turn my pony out of 
his reach, and leaning over on the off side I fired two shots 
into him at about three yards. As I straightened myself in 
the saddle, I saw before me another figure with uplifted 
sword. I raised my pistol and fired* So close were we that 
the pistol itself actually struck him. Man and sword disap 
peared below and behind me. On my left, ten yards away, 
was an Arab horseman in a bright-coloured tunic and steel 
helmet, with chain-mail hangings. I fired at him. He turned 
aside. I pulled my horse into a walk and looked around 

In one respect a cavalry charge is very like ordinary life, 
So long as you are all right, firmly in your saddle, your 



Jiorse in hand, and well armed, lots of enemies will give 
you a wide berth. But as soon as you have lost a stirrup, 
have a rein cut, have dropped your weapon, are wounded, 
or your horse is wounded, then is the moment when from 
all quarters enemies rush upon you. Such was the fate of not 
a few of my comrades in the troops immediately on my left. 
. Brought to an actual standstill in the enemy's mass, clutched 
at from every side, stabbed at and hacked at by spear and 
sword, they were dragged from their horses and cut to 
pieces by the infuriated foe. But this I did not at the time 
see or understand. My impressions continued to be san 
guine. I thought we were masters of the situation, riding 
the enemy down, scattering them and killing them. I pulled 
my horse up and looked about me. There was a mass of 
Dervishes about forty or fifty yards away on my left. They 
were huddling and clumping themselves together, rallying 
for mutual protection. They seemed wild with excitement, 
dancing about on their feet, shaking their spears up and 
down. The whole scene seemed to flicker. I have an im 
pression, but it is too fleeting to define, of brown-clad 
Lancers mixed up here and there with this surging mob. 
The scattered individuals in my immediate neighbourhood 
made no attempt to molest me. Where was my troop? 
Where were the other troops of the squadron? Within a 
hundred yards of me I could not see a single officer or man. 
I looked back at the Dervish mass. I saw two or three rifle 
men crouching and aiming their rifles at me from the fringe 
of it. Then for the first time that morning I experienced a 
sudden sensation of fear. I felt myself absolutely alone. I 
thought these riflemen would hit me and the rest devour me 
like wolves. What a fool I was to loiter like this in the 
mdst of the enemy! I crouched over the saddle, spurred my 
horse Into a gallop and drew clear of the melee. Two or 
three hundred yards away I found my troop already farced 
about and partly formed up. 

The other three troops of the squadron were reforming 



close by. Suddenly in the midst of the troop up sprang a 
Dervish. How he got there I do not know. He must have 
leaped out of some scrub or hole. All the troopers turned 
upon him thrusting with their lances: but he darted to and 
fro causing for the moment a frantic commotion. Wounded 
several times, he staggered towards me raising his spear. 
I shot him at less than a yard. He fell on the sand, and lay 
there dead. How easy to kill a man! But I did not worry 
about it. I found I had fired the whole magazine of my 
Mauser pistol, so I put in a new clip of ten cartridges before 
thinking of anything else. 

I was still prepossessed with the idea that we had inflicted 
great slaughter on the enemy and had scarcely suffered at 
all ourselves. Three or four men were missing from my 
troop. Six men and nine or ten horses were bleeding from 
spear thrusts or sword cuts. We all expected to be ordered 
immediately to charge back again. The men were ready, 
though they all looked serious. Several asked to be allowed 
to throw away their lances and draw their swords. I asked 
my second sergeant if he had enjoyed himself. His answer 
was c Well, I don't exactly say I enjoyed it, Sirj but I 
think I'll get more used to it next time? At this the whole 
troop laughed. 

But now from the direction of the enemy there cae a 
succession of grisly apparitions j horses spouting blood, 
struggling on three legs, men staggering on foot, men bleed 
ing from terrible wounds, fish-hook spears stuck right 
through them, arms and faces cut to pieces, bowels protrud 
ing, men gasping, crying, collapsing, expiring. Our first 
task was to succour these 5 and meanwhile the blood of our 
leaders cooled. They remembered for the first time that 
we had carbines. Everything was still in great confusion. 
But trumpets were sounded and orders shouted, and we all 
moved off at a trot towards the flank of the enemy. Arrived 
at a position from which we could enfilade and rake tlie 
watercourse, two squadrons were dismounted and in a few 


minutes with their fire at three hundred yards compelled the 
Dervishes to retreat. We therefore remained in possession 
of the field. Within twenty minutes of the time when we 
had first wheeled into line and began our charge, we were 
halted and breakfasting in the very watercourse that had 
so nearly proved our undoing. There one could see the 
futility of the much vaunted Arme Blanche. The Dervishes 
had carried off their wounded, and the corpses of thirty or 
forty enemy were all that could be counted on the ground. 
Among these lay the bodies of over twenty Lancers, so 
hacked and mutilated as to be mostly unrecognisable. In 
all out of 310 officers and men the regiment had lost in the 
space of about two or three minutes five officers and sixty- 
five men killed and wounded, and 120 horses nearly a 
quarter of its strength. 

Such were my fortunes in this celebrated episode. It is 
very rarely that cavalry and infantry, while still both un 
shaken, are intermingled as the result of an actual collision. 
Either the infantry keep their heads and shoot the cavalry 
down, or they break into confusion and are cut down or 
speared as they run. But the two or three thousand Der 
vishes who faced the 2ist Lancers in the watercourse at 
Omdurman were not in the least shaken by the stress of 
battle or afraid of cavalry. Their fire was not good enough 
to stop the charge, but they had no doubt faced horsemen 
many a time in the wars with Abyssinia. They were fami 
liar with the ordeal of the charge. It was the kind of fight 
ing they thoroughly understood. Moreover, the fight was 
with equal weapons, for the British too fought with sword 
and lance as in the days of old. 


& white gunboat seeing our first advance had hurried up 
the river m the hopes of being of assistance. From the 
crow's nest, its commander, Beatty, watched the whole event 
with breathless interest. Many years passed before I met 



this officer or knew that he had witnessed our gallop. When 
we met, I was First Lord of the Admiralty and he the 
youngest Admiral in the Royal Navy. 'What did it look 
like?' I asked him. 'What was your prevailing impression?' 
*It looked/ said Admiral Beatty, 'like plum duff: brown 
currants scattered about in a great deal of suet. 5 With this 
striking, if somewhat homely, description my account of this 
adventure may fittingly close* 



THE defeat and destruction of the Dervish Army was so 
complete that the frugal Kitchener was able to dispense 
immediately with the costly services of a British cavalry regi 
ment. Three days after the battle the 2ist Lancers started 
northwards on their march home. I was allowed to float 
down the Nile in the big sailing-boats which contained the 
Grenadier Guards. In Cairo I found Dick Molyneux, a sub 
altern in the Blues, who like myself had been attached to 
the 2 ist. He had been seriously wounded by a sword-cut 
above his right wrist. This had severed all the muscles and 
forced him to drop his revolver. At the same time his horse 
had been shot at close quarters. Molyneux had been rescued 
from certain slaughter by the heroism of one of his troopers. 
He was now proceeding to England in charge of a hospital 
nurse. I decided to keep him company. While we were talk 
ing, the doctor came in to dress his wound. It was a horrible 
gash, and the doctor was anxious that it should be skinned 
over as soon as possible. He said something in a low tone to 
the nurse, who bared her arm. They retired into a corner, 
where he began to cut a piece of skin off her to transfer to 
Molyneux's wound. The poor nurse blanched, and the doc 
tor turned upon me. He was a great raw-boned Irishman. 
'Oi'll have to take it off you,' he said. There was no es 
cape, and as I rolled up my sleeve he added genially *YeVe 
heeard of a man being flayed aloive? Well, this is what 
it feels loike. J He then proceeded to cut a piece of skin 
and some flesh about the size of a shilling from the inside 
of my forearm. My sensations as he sawed the razor slowly 
to and fro fully justified his description of the ordeal. How 
ever, I managed to hold out until he had cut a beautiful 



piece of skin with a thin layer of flesh attached to it. This 
precious fragment was then grafted on to my friend's 
wound. It remains there to this day and did him lasting 
good in many ways. I for my part keep the scar as a souvenir. 

My father and mother had always been able to live near 
the centre and summit of the London world, and on a 
modest scale to have the best of everything. But they had 
never been at all rich, still less had they been able to save. 
On the contrary, debts and encumbrances had accumulated 
steadily during their intensely active public and private life. 
My father's expedition to South Africa in 1891 had how 
ever enabled him to obtain a share in very valuable gold- 
mining properties. He had acquired among other holdings 
5,000 Rand Mines shares at their original par value. Dur 
ing the last year of his life these shares rose almost daily in 
the market, and at his death they were nearly twenty times 
the price he had paid for them. Soon afterwards they rose 
to fifty or sixty times this price 5 and had he lived another 
year he would have been possessed of a substantial fortune. 
In those days, when there was no taxation worth mention 
ing, and when the purchasing power of money was at least 
half as great again as it is now, even a quarter of a mil 
lion sterling was real wealth. However, he died at the mo 
ment when his new fortune almost exactly equalled his debts. 
The shares, of course, were sold, and when everything was 
settled satisfactorily my mother was left with only the en 
tailed property secured by her marriage settlements. This, 
however, was quite enough for comfort, ease and pleasure. 

I was most anxious not to be a burden upon her in any 
wayj and amid the movement and excitements of the cam 
paigns and polo tournaments I reflected seriously upon the 
financial aspects of my military life. My allowance of 500 
a year was aot sufficient to meet the expenses of polo and the 
Hussars* I watched tbe remorseless piling up year by year 



of deficits which, although not large as deficits go were 
deficits none the less. I now saw that the only profession 
I had been taught would never yield me even enough 
money to avoid getting into debt, let alone to dispense with 
my allowance and become completely independent as I de 
sired. To have given the most valuable years of one's edu 
cation to reach a position of earning about 143. a day out 
of which to keep up two horses and most costly uniforms 
seemed hardly in retrospect to have been a very judicious 
proceeding. To go on soldiering even for a few more years 
would plainly land me and all connected with me in in 
creasing difficulties. On the other hand the two books I had 
already written and my war correspondence with the Daily 
Telegraph had already brought in about five times as much 
as the Queen had paid me for three years of assiduous and 
sometimes dangerous work. Her Majesty was so stinted by 
Parliament that she was not able to pay even a living 
wage. I therefore resolved with many regrets to quit her 
service betimes. The series of letters I had written for 
the Morning Post about the battle of Omdurman, although 
unsigned, had produced above 300. Living at home with 
my mother my expenses would be small, and I hoped to 
make from my new book about the Soudan Campaign, which 
I had decided to call The River War, enough to keep me 
in pocket money for at least two years. Besides this I had in 
contemplation a contract with the Pioneer to write them 
weekly letters from London at a payment of 3 apiece. I 
have improved upon this figure in later lifej but at this 
time I reflected that it nearly equalled the pay I was receiv 
ing as a subaltern officer. 

I therefore planned the sequence of the year 1899 as 
follows: To return to India and win the Polo Tournament: 
to send in my papers and leave the army: to relieve my 
mother from paying my allowance: to write my new book 
and the letters to the Pioneer: and to look out for a dbaace 
of entering Parliament. These plans as will be seen were in 



the main carried out. In fact from this year until the year 
1919, when I inherited unexpectedly a valuable property 
under the will of my long dead great-grandmother Frances 
Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry, I was entirely depen 
dent upon my own exertions. During all these twenty years I 
maintained myself, and later on my family, without ever 
lacking anything necessary to health or enjoyment. I am 
proud of this, and I commend my example to my son, indeed 
to all my children. 


I decided to return to India at the end of November in 
order to prepare for the Polo Tournament in February. In 
the interval I found myself extremely well treated at home. 
My letters to the Morning Post had been read with wide 
attention. Everyone wanted to hear about the campaign and 
Omdurman and above all about the cavalry charge. I there 
fore often found myself at the dinner table, in the clubs 
or at Newmarket, which in those days I frequented, the cen 
tre of appreciative circles of listeners and inquirers much 
older than myself. There were also young ladies who took 
some interest in my prattle and affairs. The weeks therefore 
passed agreeably. 

It was at this time that I met the group of new Con 
servative M.P.'s with whom I was afterwards to be much 
associated. Mr. Ian Malcolm invited me to a luncheon at 
which the other guests were Lord Hugh Cecil, Lord Percy 
(the elder brother of the late Duke of Northumberland) 
and Lord Balcarres (now Lord Crawford). These were the 
rising politicians of the Conservative Party} and many Par 
liaments have met without receiving such an accession to the 
strength and distinction of the assembly. They were all in 
terested to see me, having heard of my activities, and also 
on account of my father's posthumous prestige. Naturally I 
was on my mettle, and not without envy in the presence of 
these young men only two or three years older than myself, 



all born with silver spoons in their mouths, all highly dis 
tinguished at Oxford or Cambridge, and all ensconced in 
safe Tory constituencies. I felt indeed I was the earthen pot 
among the brass. 

Lord Hugh Cecil's intellectual gifts were never brighter 
than in the morning of life. Brought up for nearly twenty 
years in the house of a Prime Minister and Party Leader, 
he had heard from childhood the great questions of State 
discussed from the point of view of the responsible master 
of our affairs. The frankness and freedom with which the 
members of the Cecil family, male and female, talked and 
argued with each other were remarkable. Differences of 
opinion- were encouraged 5 and repartee and rejoinder flashed 
to and fro between father and children, brother and sister, 
uncle and nephew, old and young, as if they were all on 
equal terms. Lord Hugh had already held the House of 
Commons rivetted in pin-drop silence for more than an hour 
while he discoursed on the government of an established 
church and the differences between Erastians and High 
Churchmen. He was an adept in every form of rhetoric or 
dialectic} and so quick, witty and unexpected in conversation 
that it was a delight to hear him. 

Lord Percy, a thoughtful and romantic youth, an Irving- 
ite by religion, of great personal charm and the highest 
academic achievement, had gained two years before the 
Newdigate Prize at Oxford for the best poem of the year. 
He had travelled widely in the highlands of Asia Minor 
and the Caucasus, feasting with princely barbarians and fast 
ing with priestly fanatics. Over him the East exercised the 
spell it cast over Disraeli. He might, indeed, have stepped 
out of the pages of Tancred or Comngsby* 

The conversation drifted to the issue of whether peoples 
have a right to self government or only to good, govern 
ment y what are the inherent rights of human beings and 
on what are they founded? From this we pushed on to 
Slavery as an institution. I was much surprised to find tfa&i 



my companions had not the slightest hesitation in cham 
pioning the unpopular side on all these issues j but what 
surprised me still more, and even vexed me, was the diffi 
culty I had in making plain my righteous and indeed obvious 
point of view against their fallacious but most ingenious 
arguments. They knew so much more about the controversy 
and its possibilities than I did, that my bold broad gener 
alities about liberty, equality and fraternity got seriously 
knocked about. I entrenched myself around the slogan c No 
slavery under the Union Jack.' Slavery they suggested 
might be right or wrong: the Union Jack was no doubt a 
respectable piece of bunting: but what was the moral con 
nection between the two? I had the same difficulty in dis 
covering a foundation for the assertions I so confidently 
made, as I have found in arguing with the people who con 
tend that the sun is only a figment of our imagination. In 
deed although I seemed to start with all the advantages, I 
soon felt like going out into St. James's Street or Picadilly 
and setting up without more ado a barricade and rousing a 
mob to defend freedom, justice and democracy. However 
at the end Lord Hugh said to me that I must not take such 
discussions too seriously 5 that sentiments however worthy 
required to be probed, and that he and his friends were not 
really so much in favour of Slavery as an institution as I 
might have thought. So it seemed that after all they were 
only teasing me and making me gallop over grotind which 
they knew well was full of traps and pitfalls. 

After this encounter I had the idea that I must go to 
Oxford when I came back from India after the tournament. 
I was I expect at this time capable of deriving both profit 
and enjoyment from Oxford life and thought, and I began 
to make inquiries about how to get there. It seemed that 
there were, even for persons of riper years like myself, 
Examinations^ and that such formalities were indispensable. 
I could not see why I should not have gone and paid my 
fees and listened to the lectures and argued with the profes- 



sors and read the books that they recommended. However, it 
appeared that this was impossible. I must pass examinations 
not only in Latin, but even in Greek. I could not contemplate 
toiling at Greek irregular verbs after having commanded 
British regular troops 5 so after much pondering I had to my 
keen regret to put the plan aside. 

Early in November I paid a visit to the Central Offices o 
the Conservative Party at St. Stephen's Chambers, to inquire 
about finding a constituency. One of my more remote con 
nections, Fitzroy-Stewart, had long worked there in an hon 
orary capacity. He introduced me to the Party Manager, 
then Mr. Middleton, 'The Skipper 5 as he was called. Mr. 
Middleton was held in great repute because the Party had 
won the General Election of 1895. When parties lose elec 
tions through bad leadership or foolish policy or because of 
mere slackness and the swing of the pendulum, they always 
sack the party manager. So it is only fair that these func 
tionaries should receive all the honours of success. c The Skip 
per' was very cordial and complimentary. The Party would 
certainly find me a seat, and he hoped to see me in Parlia 
ment at an early date. He then touched delicately upon 
money matters. Could I pay my expenses, and how much a 
year could I afford to give to the constituency? I said I would 
gladly fight the battle, but I could not pay anything except 
my own personal expenses. He seemed rather damped by 
this, and observed that the best and safest constituencies al 
ways liked to have the largest contributions from their mem 
bers. He instanced cases where as much as a thousand pounds 
a year or more was paid by the member in subscriptions and 
charities in return for the honour of holding the seat. Risky 
seats could not afford to be so particular, and ^Forlorn 
Hopes' were very cheap. However, he said he would do all 
he could, and that no doubt mine was an exceptional case on 
account of my father, and also he added on account of my 
experience at the wars, which would be popular with 
Tory working-men. 



On the way out I had another talk with Fitzroy-Stewart. 
My eye lighted upon a large book on his table on the cover 
of which was a white label bearing the inscription 'SPEAKERS 
WANTED.' I gazed upon this with wonder, Fancy that! 
Speakers were wanted and there was a bulky book of appli 
cations! Now I had always wanted to make a speech j but I 
had never on any occasion great or small been invited or in 
deed allowed to do so. There were no speeches in the 4th 
Hussars nor at Sandhurst either if I might exclude one 
incident on which I was not concerned to dwell. So I said to 
Fitzroy-Stewart, 'Tell me about this. Do you mean to say 
there are a lot of meetings which want speakers? 5 c Yes,' he 
replied; 'the Skipper told me I was not to let you go with 
out getting something out of you. Can't I book you for one?' 
I was deeply agitated. On the one hand I felt immense 
eagerness 5 on the other the keenest apprehension. However, 
in life's steeplechase one must always jump the fences when 
they come. Regaining such composure as I could and assum 
ing an indifference contrary to my feelings, I replied that 
perhaps if all the conditions were suitable and there was a 
real desire to hear me, I might be willing to accede to his 
request. He opened the book. 

It appeared there were hundreds of indoor meetings and 
outdoor fetes, of bazaars and rallies all of which were 
clamant for speakers. I surveyed this prospect with the eye 
of an urchin looking through a pastrycook's window. Finally 
we selected Bath as the scene of my (official) maiden effort. 
It was settled that in ten days' time I should address a gath 
ering of the Primrose League in a park, the property of a 
Mr. H. D. Skrine, situated on one of the hills overlooking 
that ancient city. I quitted the Central Office in suppressed 

I was for some days in fear lest the plan should miscarry. 
Perhaps Mr. Skrine or the other local magnates would not 
want to have me, or had already found someone they liked 
better. However, all went well. I duly received a formal in- 



vitation and an announcement of the meeting appeared In 
the Morning Post. Oliver Borthwick now wrote that the 
Morning Post would send a special reporter to Bath to take 
down every word I said, and that the Morning Post would 
give it prominence. This heightened both my ardour and my 
nervousness. I spent many hours preparing my discourse and 
learning it so thoroughly by heart that I could almost have 
said it backwards in my sleep. I determined in defence of 
His Majesty's Government to adopt an aggressive and even 
a truculent mode. I was particularly pleased with one sen 
tence which I coined, to the effect that 'England would gain 
far more from the rising tide of Tory Democracy than from 
the dried-up drainpipe of Radicalism.* I licked my chops 
over this and a good many others like it. These happy ideas, 
once they had begun to flow, seemed to come quite naturally. 
Indeed I very soon had enough to make several speeches. 
However, I had asked how long I ought to speak, and being 
told that about a quarter of an hour would do, I confined 
myself rigorously to 25 minutes. I found by repeated experi 
ments with a stop-watch that I could certainly canter over 
the course in 20 minutes. This would leave time for inter 
ruptions. Above all one must not be hurried or flurried* 
One must not yield too easily to the weakness of audiences* 
There they were; what could they do? They had asked for 
it and they must have it. 

The day arrived. I caught a train from Paddington. There 
was the reporter of the Morning Post y a companionable gen 
tleman in a grey frock-coat. We travelled down together, 
and as we were alone in the carriage, I tried one or two 
tit-bits on him, as if they had arisen casually in conversation. 
We drove in a fly up the hills above Bath together. Mr. 
Skrine and his family received me hospitably. The fete was 
in progress throughout the grounds. There were cocoanut- 
shies and races and catchpenny shows of every kind. The 
weather was fine and everybody was enjoying themselves* 
Mindful of a former experience I inquired rather anxiously 



about the meeting. It was all right. At five o'clock they 
would ring a bell, and all these merrymakers would assemble 
at the mouth of a tent in which a platform had been erected. 
The Chairman of the Party in the district would introduce 
me. I was the only speaker apart from the votes of thanks. 

Accordingly when the bell began to ring, we repaired to 
our tent and mounted the platform, which consisted of about 
four boards laid across some small barrels. There was neither 
table nor chair 5 but as soon as about a hundred persons had 
rather reluctantly, I thought, quitted their childish amuse 
ments in the park, the Chairman rose and in a brief speech 
introduced me to the audience. At Sandhurst and in the army 
compliments are few and far between, and flattery of sub 
alterns does not exist. If you won the Victoria Cross or the 
Grand National Steeplechase or the Army Heavyweight 
Boxing Championship, you would only expect to receive 
from your friends warnings against having your head turned 
by your good luck. In politics it was apparently quite dif 
ferent. Here the butter was laid on with a trowel. I heard 
my father, who had been treated so scurvily, referred to in 
glowing terms as one of the greatest leaders the Conserva 
tives had ever had. As for my adventures in Cuba, on the 
Indian frontier and up the Nile, I could only pray the regi 
ment would never hear of what the Chairman said. When 
he descanted upon my ^bravery with the sword and brilliancy 
with the pen,' I feared that the audience would cry out <Oh, 
rats!' or something similar. I was astonished and relieved to 
find that they lapped it all up as if it were gospel. 

Then came my turn. Hardening my heart, summoning 
my resolution, I let off my speech. As I followed the well- 
worn grooves from stage to stage and point to point, I felt 
It was going quite well. The audience, which gradually in 
creased in numbers, seemed delighted. They cheered a lot 
at all the right places when I paused on purpose to give them 
a chance, and even at others which I had not foreseen. At 
the end they clapped loudly and for quite a long time. So 



I could do it after all! It seemed quite easy too. The re 
porter and I went home together. He had stood just in front 
of me writing it down verbatim. He was warm in his con 
gratulations, and the next day the Morning Post printed a 
whole column, and even in addition, mark you, wrote an 
appreciative leaderette upon the arrival of a new figure upon 
the political scene. I began to be much pleased with myself 
and with the world: and in this mood I sailed for India. 

We have now to turn to other and more serious affairs. 
All the officers of the regiment subscribed to send our polo 
team to the tournament at Meerut. Thirty ponies under the 
charge of a sergeant-major were embarked in a special train 
for the i,4OO-mile journey. Besides their syces they were 
accompanied by a number of our most trustworthy non-com 
missioned officers including a farrier-sergeant, all under the 
charge of a sergeant-major. The train covered about 200 
miles a day, and every evening the ponies were taken out 
rested and exercised. Thus they arrived at their destination 
as fit as when they started. We travelled separately but ar 
rived at the same time. We had arranged to play for a fort 
night at Jodhpore before going to Meerut. Here we were 
the guests of the famous Sir Pertab Singh. Sir Pertab was the 
trusted regent of Jodhpore, as his nephew the Maharajah 
was still a minor. He entertained us royally in his large, 
cool, stone house. Every evening he and his sons, two of 
whom, Hurji and Dokul Singh, were as fine polo-players as 
India has ever produced, with other Jodhpore nobles, played 
us in carefully conducted instruction games. Old Pertab, who 
loved polo next to war more than anything in the world, 
used to stop the game repeatedly and point out faults or 
possible improvements in our play and combination. 'Faster, 
faster, same like fiy, J he would shout to increase the speed 
of the game. The Jodhpore polo ground rises in great dmds 
of red dust when a game is in progress. These clouds car- 



ried to leeward on the strong breeze introduced a disturbing 
and somewhat dangerous complication. Turbanned figures 
emerged at full gallop from the dust-cloud, or the ball whis 
tled out of it unexpectedly. It was difficult to follow the 
whole game, and one often had to play to avoid the dust- 
cloud. The Rajputs were quite used to it, and gradually it 
ceased to worry their guests. 

The night before we were to leave Jodhpore for Meerut 
a grievous misfortune overtook me. Coming down to din 
ner, I slipped on the stone stairs and out went my shoulder. 
I got it put in again fairly easily, but the whole of the mus 
cles were strained. By the next morning I had practically 
lost the use of my right arm. I knew from bitter experience 
that it would take three weeks or even more before I could 
hit a polo ball hard again, and even then it would only be 
under the precaution of having my elbow strapped to within 
a few inches of my side. The tournament was to begin in 
four days. The reader may well imagine my disappointment. 
My arm had been getting steadily stronger, and I had been 
playing No. i to the satisfaction of our team. Now I was a 
cripple. We luckily had a fifth man with us, so I told my 
friends when they picked me up, that they must take me out 
of the team. They considered this very gravely all the next 
day, and then our captain informed me that they had de 
cided to play me in spite of everything. Even if I could not 
hit the ball at all and could only hold a stick in my hand, 
they thought that with my knowledge of the game and of 
our team-play I should give the best chance of success. After 
making sure that this decision had not been taken out of 
compassion but solely on its merits, I consented to do my 
best. In those days the off-side rule existed, and the No. i 
was engaged in a ceaseless duel with the opposing back who, 
turning and twisting his pony, always endeavoured to put 
his opponent off-side. If the No. i was able to occupy the 
back, ride him out of the game and hamper him at every 
turn, then he could serve his side far better than by over- 



much hitting of the ball. We knew that Captain Hardress 
Lloyd, afterwards an international player against the United 
States, was the back and most formidable member of the 4th 
Dragoon Guards, the strongest team we should have to 

Accordingly with my elbow strapped tight to my side, 
holding a stick with many an ache and twinge, I played in 
the first two matches of the tournament. We were successful 
in both, and although I could only make a restricted con 
tribution my friends seemed content. Our No. 2, Albert 
Savory, was a hard, brilliant hitter. I cleared the way for 
him. Polo is the prince of games because it combines all the 
pleasure of hitting the ball, which is the foundation of so 
many amusements, with all the pleasures of riding and 
horsemanship, and to both of these there is added that in 
tricate, loyal team-work which is the essence of football or 
baseball, and which renders a true combination so vastly su 
perior to the individuals of which it is composed. 

The great day arrived. As we had foreseen we met the 
4th Dragoon Guards in the Final. The match from the very 
first moment was severe and even. Up and down the hard, 
smooth Indian polo ground where the ball was very rarely 
missed and everyone knew where it should be hit to, we 
raced and tore. Quite soon we had scored one goal and our 
opponents two, and there the struggle hung in equipoise for 
some time. I never left the back, and being excellently 
mounted kept him very busy. Suddenly in the midst of a 
confused scrimmage close by the enemy goal, I saw the ball 
spin towards me. It was on my near side. I was able to lift 
the stick over and bending forward gave it a feeble forward 
tap. Through the goalposts it rolled. Two alt! Apart from 
the crippled No. I, we really had a very good team. Our 
captain, Reginald Hoare, who played No. 3, was not easily 
to be surpassed in India. Our bade, Barnes, my companion in 
Cuba, was a rod:, and almost unfailingly sent his strong 
back-handers to exactly the place where Savory was waiting 



for them with me to dear the way. For three years this con 
test had been the main preoccupation of our lives, and we 
had concentrated upon it every resource we possessed. Pres 
ently I had another chance. Again the ball came to me close 
to the hostile goal. This time it was travelling fast, and I 
had no more to do in one fleeting second than to stretch out 
my stick and send it rolling between the posts. Three to two! 
Then our opponents exerting themselves swept us down the 
ground and scored again. Three all! 

I must explain that in Indian polo in those days, in order 
to avoid drawn matches, subsidiary goals could be scored. 
Half the width of the goalposts was laid off on either side 
by two small flags, and even if the goal were missed, a ball 
within these flags counted as a subsidiary. No number of 
subsidiaries equalled one goal, but when goals were equal, 
subsidiaries decided. Unfortunately our opponents had the 
best of us in subsidiaries. Unless we could score again we 
should lose. Once again fortune came to me, and I gave a 
little feeble hit at the ball among the ponies' hoofs, and for 
the third time saw it pass through the goal. This brought the 
yth chukka to an end. 

We lined up for the last period with 4 goals and 3 sub 
sidiaries to our credit, our opponents having 3 goals and 4 
subsidiaries. Thus if they got one more goal they would not 
merely tie, but win the match outright. Rarely have I seen 
such strained faces on both sides. You would not have thought 
it was a game at all, but a matter of life and death. Far 
graver crises cause less keen emotion. I do not remember 
anything of the last chukka except that as we galloped up 
and down the ground in desperate attack and counter-attack, 
I kept on thinking, <Would God that night or Bliicher 
would come. 5 They came in one of the most welcome sounds 
I h^ve ever heard: the bell which ended the match, and en- 
atled us to say as we sat streaming and exhausted on our 
ponies, *We have won the Inter-Regimental Tournament of 
1899^ Prolonged rejoicings, intense inward satisfaction, and 



nocturnal festivities from which the use of wine was not 
excluded, celebrated the victory. Do not grudge these young 
soldiers gathered from so many regiments their joy and 
sport. Few of that merry throng were destined to see old 
age. Our own team was never to play again. A year later 
Albert Savory was killed in the Transvaal, Barnes was 
grievously wounded in Natal, and I became a sedentary poli 
tician increasingly crippled by my wrenched shoulder. It 
was then or never for usj and never since has a cavalry regi 
ment from Southern India gained the prize. 

The regiment were very nice to me when eventually I 
departed for home, and paid me the rare compliment of 
drinking my health the last time I dined with them. What 
happy years I had had with them and what staunch friends 
one made! It was a grand school for anyone. Discipline and 
comradeship were the lessons it taught 5 and perhaps after all 
these are just as valuable as the lore of the universities. Still 
one would like to have both. 

I had meanwhile been working continuously upon The 
River War. This work was extending in scope. From being 
a mere chronicle of the Omdurman campaign, it grew back 
wards into what was almost a history of the ruin and rescue 
of the Soudan. I read scores of books, indeed everything 
that had been published upon the subject 5 and I now planned 
a couple of fat volumes. I affected a combination of the 
styles of Macaulay and Gibbon, the staccato antitheses of the 
former and the rolling sentences and genitival endings of 
the latter; and I stuck in a bit of my own from time to time. 
I began to see that writing, especially narrative, was not only 
an affair of sentences, but of paragraphs. Indeed I thought 
the paragraph no less important than the sentence. Macaulay 
is a master of paragraphing. Just as the sentence contains one 
idea in all its fullness, so the paragraph should embrace a 
distinct episode 5 and as sentences should follow one another 



in harmonious sequence, so the paragraphs must fit on to one 
another like the automatic couplings of railway carriages. 
Chapterisation also began to dawn upon me. Each chapter 
must be self-contained. All the chapters should be of equal 
value and more or less of equal length. Some chapters define 
themselves naturally and obviously 5 but much more diffi 
culty arises when a number of heterogeneous incidents none 
of which can be omitted have to be woven together into 
what looks like an integral theme. Finally the work must be 
surveyed as a whole and due proportion and strict order es 
tablished from beginning to end. I already knew that chro 
nology is the key to easy narrative. I already realised that 
'good sense is the foundation of good writing.' I warned my 
self against the fault of beginning my story as some poor 
people do c Four thousand years before the Deluge/ and I 
repeated earnestly one of my best French quotations, c L'art 
d'etre ennuyeux, c'est de tout dire.' I think I will repeat it 
again now. 

It was great fun writing a book. One lived with it. It be 
came a companion. It built an impalpable crystal sphere 
around one of interests and ideas. In a sense one felt like a 
goldfish in a bowl 5 but in this case the goldfish made his own 
bowl. This came along everywhere with me. It never got 
knocked about in travelling, and there was never a moment 
when agreeable occupation was lacking. Either the glass had 
to be polished, or the structure extended or contracted, or the 
walls required strengthening. I have noticed in my life deep 
resemblances between many different kinds of things. Writ 
ing a book is not unlike building a house or planning a battle 
or painting a picture. The technique is different, the mate 
rials are different, but the principle is the same. The foun 
dations have to be laid, the data assembled, and the premises 
rnust bear the weight of their conclusions. Ornaments or re 
finements may then be added. The whole when finished is 
only the successful presentation of a theme. In battles how 
ever the otjier fellow interferes all the time and keeps up- 



setting things, and the best generals are those who arrive at 
the results of planning without being tied to plans. 

On my homeward steamer I made friends with the most 
brilliant man in journalism I have ever met. Mr. G. W. 
Steevens was the 'star' writer of a certain Mr. Harmsworth's 
new paper called the Daily Mail which had just broken 
upon the world, and had forced the Daily Telegraph to 
move one step nearer Victorian respectability. Harmsworth 
relied enormously upon Steevens in these early critical days, 
and being well disposed to me, told him later on to write 
me up, which he did in his glowing fashion. c Boom the 
Boomsters' was in those days the motto of the infant Harms- 
worth press, and on these grounds I was selected for their 
favours. But I anticipate. 

I was working in the saloon of the Indiaman, and had 
reached an exciting point in my story. The Nile column had 
just by a forced night march reached Abu Hamed and was 
about to storm it. I was setting the scene in my most cere 
monious style. c The dawn was breaking and the mists, rising 
from the river and dispersing with the coming of the sun, 
revealed the outlines of the Dervish town and the half circle 
of rocky hills behind it. Within this stern amphitheatre one 
of the minor dramas of war was now to be enacted/ c Ha! 
ha!' said Steevens, suddenly peering over my shoulder. c Fin- 
ish it yourself then,' I said getting up \ and I went on deck. 
I was curious to see how he would do it, and indeed I hoped 
for a valuable contribution. But when I came down again I 
found that all he had written on my nice sheet of paper 
was Top-pop! pop-pop! Pop! Pop!' in his tiny handwrit 
ing, and then at the bottom of the page printed in big letters 
'BANG! ! !' I was disgusted at this levity. But Steevens had 
many other styles besides that of the jaunty, breezy, slap 
dash productions which he wrote for the Daily Mail. About 
this time there had appeared an anonymous article upon the 
future of the British Empire called c The New Gibbon*' One 
would have thought it had been lifted bodily from the pages 



of the Roman historian. I was astounded when Steevens con 
fessed himself the author. 

Later on Steevens was kind enough to read my proofs and 
offer valuable advice which I transcribe. *The parts of the 
book I have read/ he wrote, c appear to me to be a valuable 
supplement to the works of G. W. Steevens, indeed, a valu 
able work altogether. I think it first rate, sound, well got up 
and put together, and full of most illuminating and descrip 
tive pages. The only criticism J[ should make is that your 
philosophic reflections, while generally well expressed, often 
acute and sometimes true, are too devilish frequent. If I 
were you I should cut out the philosopher about January 
1898, giving him perhaps a short innings at the very end. 
He will only bore people. Those who want such reflections 
can often supply them without assistance. 7 His gay, mocking 
spirit and rippling wit made him a delightful companion, 
and our acquaintance ripened into friendship during the sum 
mer months of 1899. This was the last summer he was to 
see. He died of typhoid fever in Ladysmith in the following 


I paused in Cairo for a fortnight to collect materials for 
my book and enlist the co-operation of several important ac 
tors in the Soudan drama. In this way I met Girouard, the 
young Canadian Royal Engineer who had built the desert 
railway; Slatin Pasha, the little Austrian officer who had 
been ten years the Khalifa's prisoner and whose book Fire 
and Sword in the Soudan is a classic in its sphere ; Sir Regi 
nald Wingate, head of the Intelligence, to whom I was al 
ready indebted for an important meal 5 Garstin, head of the 
Egyptian Irrigation Service - y together with a number of the 
leading Egyptian statesmen and personalities. All these able 
men had played their part in the measures of war and ad 
ministration which in less than twenty years had raised Egypt 
from anarchy, bankruptcy and defeat to triumphant pros 
perity. I already knew their Chief, Lord Cromer. He in- 



vited me to visit him at the British Agency, and readily un 
dertook to read my chapters on the liberation of the Soudan 
and Gordon's death, which I had already completed. Ac 
cordingly I sent him a bulky bundle of typescript, and was 
delighted and also startled to receive it back a few days later 
slashed about with blue pencil with a vigour which recalled 
the treatment my Latin exercises used to meet with at Har 
row. I saw that Lord Cromer had taken an immense amount 
of trouble over my screed, and I therefore submitted duti 
fully to his comments and criticisms, which were often full 
and sometimes scathing. For instance I had written about 
General Gordon becoming private secretary to Lord Ripon 
at one period in his career 'the brilliant sun had become the 
satellite of a farthing dip.' On this Lord Cromer's com 
ment was c "brilliant sun" appears to be extravagant eulogy 
and "farthing dip" does less than justice to Lord Ripon's 
position as Viceroy. Lord Ripon would not mind, but his 
friends might be angry and most people would simply laugh 
at you. 3 I wrote back to say I was sacrificing this gem of 
which till then I had thought so highly, and I also accepted 
a great many other strictures in a spirit of becoming meek 
ness. This disarmed and placated Lord Cromer, who contin 
ued to take a friendly interest in my work. He wrote *My 
remarks were, I know, severe, and it is very sensible of you 
to take them in the spirit in which they were intended 
which was distinctly friendly. I did for you what I have 
over and over again asked others to do for myself. I always 
invite criticism from friends before I write or do anything 
important. It is very much better to have one's weak points 
indicated by friendly critics before one acts, rather than by 
hostile critics when it is too late to alter. I hope your book 
will be a success and I think it will. One of the very few 
things which still interest me in life is to see young men get 
on. 5 

I saw Lord Cromer repeatedly during this fortnight and 
profited to the full by his knowledge and wisdom. He 



sented in an intense degree that phlegm and composure 
which used to be associated with high British administrators 
in the East. I was reminded of one of my best French quota 
tions 'On ne regne sur les ames que par le calme.' He was 
never in a hurry, never anxious to make an effect or sensa 
tion. He sat still and men came to him. He watched events 
until their combination enabled him to intervene smoothly 
and decisively. He could wait a year as easily as a week, and 
he had often waited four or five years before getting his 
way. He had now reigned in Egypt for nearly sixteen years. 
He rejected all high-sounding titles 5 he remained simply 
the British Agent. His status was indefinite ; he might be 
nothing; he was in fact everything. His word was law. 
Working through a handful of brilliant lieutenants, who 
were mostly young and who, like their Chief, had trained 
themselves to keep in the background, Cromer controlled 
with minute and patient care every department of the Egyp 
tian administration and every aspect of its policy. British and 
Egyptian Governments had come and gone; he had seen 
the Soudan lost and reconquered. He had maintained a tight 
hold upon the purse strings and a deft control of the whole 
movement of Egyptian politics. It was very pleasant to see 
him thus with his life's work shining around him, the em 
bodiment of supreme power without pomp or apparent ef 
fort. I felt honoured by the consideration with which he 
treated me. We do not see his like nowadays, though our 
need is grave. 



IN the Spring of 1899 I became conscious of the fact that 
there was another Winston Churchill who also wrote 
books 5 apparently he wrote novels, and very good novels 
too, which achieved an enormous circulation in the United 
States. I received from many quarters congratulations on 
my skill as a writer of fiction. I thought at first these were 
due to a belated appreciation of the merits of Savrola. Grad 
ually I realised that there was c another Richmond in the 
field, 3 luckily on the other side of the Atlantic. I proceeded 
to indite my trans-Atlantic double a letter which with his 
answer is perhaps a literary curiosity. 

June 7, 1899. 

Mr. Winston Churchill presents his compliments to Mr. 
Winston Churchill, and begs to draw his attention to a mat 
ter which concerns them both. He has learnt from the Press 
notices that Mr. Winston Churchill proposes to bring out 
another novel, entitled Richard Carvel, which is certain to 
have a considerable sale both in England and America. 
Mr. Winston Churchill is also the author of a novel now 
being published in serial form in Macmillarfs Magazine) 
and for which he anticipates some sale both in England 
and America. He also proposes to publish on the ist of Oc 
tober another military chronicle on the Soudan War. He has 
no doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill will recognise from 
this letter If indeed by no other means that there is grave 
danger of his works being mistaken for those of Mr. Wins 
ton Churchill. He feels sure that Mr. Winston Churchill 
desires this as little as he does himself. In future to avoid 
mistakes as far as possible, Mr. Winston Churchill has de- 



cided to sign all published articles, stories, or other works, 
'Winston Spencer Churchill,' and not 'Winston ChurchilP 
as formerly. He trusts that this arrangement will commend 
itself to Mr. Winston Churchill, and he ventures to suggest, 
with a view to preventing further confusion which may arise 
out of this extraordinary coincidence, that both Mr. Winston 
Churchill and Mr. Winston Churchill should insert a short 
note in their respective publications explaining to the public 
which are the works of Mr. Winston Churchill and which 
those of Mr. Winston Churchill. The text of this note might 
form a subject for future discussion if Mr. Winston Churchill 
agrees with Mr. Winston Churchill's proposition. He takes 
this occasion of complimenting Mr. Winston Churchill upon 
the style and success of his works, which are always brought 
to his notice whether in magazine or book form, and he 
trusts that Mr. Winston Churchill has derived equal plea 
sure from any work of his that may have attracted his at 


June 21, 1899. 

Mr. Winston Churchill is extremely grateful to MX*. 
Winston Churchill for bringing forward a subject which has 
given Mr. Winston Churchill much anxiety. Mr. Winston 
Churchill appreciates the courtesy of Mr. Winston Churchill 
in adopting the name of 'Winston Spencer ChurchilP in his 
books, articles, etc. Mr. Winston Churchill makes haste to 
add that, had lie possessed any other names, he would cer 
tainly have adopted one of them. The writings of Mr. 
Winston Spencer Churchill (henceforth so called) have been 
brought to Mr. Winston Churchill's notice since the publi 
cation of his first story in the 'Century.' It did not seem then 
to Mr. Winston Churchill that the works of Mr. Winston 
Spencer Churchill would conflict in any way with his own 
attempts at fiction. 

The proposal of Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill to affix 



a note to the separate writings of Mr. Winston Spencer 
Churchill and Mr. Winston Churchill, the text of which is 
to be agreed on between them, is quite acceptable to Mr. 
Winston Churchill. If Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill will 
do him the favour of drawing up this note, there is little 
doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill will acquiesce in its par 

Mr. Winston Churchill moreover, is about to ask the 
opinion of his friends and of his publishers as to the advisa 
bility of inserting the words c The American/ after his name 
on the title-page of his books. Should this seem wise to them, 
he will request his publishers to make the change in future 

Mr. Winston Churchill will take the liberty of sending 
Mr. Winston Churchill copies of the two novels he has writ 
ten. He has a high admiration for the works of Mr. Winston 
Spencer Churchill and is looking forward with pleasure to 
reading Savrola. 

All was settled amicably, and by degrees the reading 
public accommodated themselves to the fact that there had 
arrived at the same moment two different persons of the 
same name wfro would from henceforward minister copi 
ously to their literary, or if need be their political require 
ments. When a year later I visited Boston, Mr. Winston 
Churchill was the first to welcome me. He entertained me 
at a very gay banquet of young men, and we made each 
other complimentary speeches. Some confusion however per 
sisted ; all my mails were sent to his address and the bill for 
the dinner came in to me. I need not say that both these 
errors were speedily redressed. 

One day I was asked to go to the House of Commons by 
a Mr. Robert Ascroft, Conservative member for Oldham* 
He took me down to the smoking-room and opened to me 



an important project. Oldham is a two-member constituency, 
and at this time the Conservatives held both seats. Ascroft 
the senior member had a strong position, as he was not only 
supported by the Conservative electors, but was also the tried 
and trusted solicitor for the Oldham Cotton Operatives 
Trade Unions. It appeared that his colleague "had been for 
some time ailing, and Mr. Ascroft was on the look-out for 
some one to run in double harness with him. He evidently 
thought I should do. He made some sensible remarks. 
'Young people' he said Very often do not have as much 
money as older ones.' I knew nothing to enable me to con 
tradict this painful fact. He seemed to think, however, that 
all obstacles could be surmounted, and I agreed to come 
down at an early date and address a meeting at Oldham 
under his auspices. 

Some weeks passed and the date of this meeting was 
already fixed, when to my regret the newspapers reported 
Mr. Ascroft's sudden death. It seemed strange that he, so 
strong and busy, seeming perfectly well, should flash away 
like this, while the colleague whose health had caused him 
so much anxiety, survived. Robert Ascroft was greatly re 
spected by the Oldham working folk. They made a sub 
scription of more than 2,000, the bulk collected in very 
small sums, to set up a statue to him as c The Workers' 
Friend.' They stipulated and I thought it characteristic of 
these Lancashire operatives that the money was not to go 
to anything useful 5 no beds at a hospital, no extensions to a 
library, no fountain even, just a memorial. They did not 
want, they said, to give a present to themselves. 

The vacancy now had to be filled, and they immediately 
pitched on me. I had been, it was said, virtually selected by 
the late honoured member. My name was already on the 
hoardings to address a meeting. Add to this my father's 
memory^ and the case was complete. I received straight 
away without ever suing, or asking, or appearing before any 
committee, a formal invitation to contest the seat. At the 



Conservative Central Office the 'Skipper* seemed quite con 
tent with the local decision, but he urged that advantage 
should be taken of the by-election to vacate both seats at the 
same time. In his view the Government was not at that mo 
ment in a good position to win Lancashire by-elections. They 
did not want to have a second vacancy at Oldham in a few 
months' time. Lord Salisbury could afford to be indifferent 
to the loss of a couple of seats. Better to lose them both now 
and have done with Oldham till the general election, when 
they could win them back. The significance of this attitude 
was not lost upon me. But in those days any political fight 
in any circumstances seemed to me better than no fight at 
all. I therefore unfurled my standard and advanced into the 

I now plunged into a by-election attended by the fullest 
publicity attaching to such episodes. I have fought up to 
the present fourteen contested elections, which take about 
a month of one's life apiece. It is melancholy, when one 
reflects upon our brief span, to think that no less than four 
teen months of life have been passed in this wearing clat 
ter. By-elections, of which I have had five, are even worse 
than ordinary elections because all the cranks and faddists 
of the country and all their assodates and all the sponging, 
'uplift' organisations fasten upon the wretched candidate. 
If he is a supporter of the administration, all the woes of 
the world, all the shortcomings of human society in addition 
are laid upon him, and he is vociferously urged to say what 
he is going to do about them. 

In this case the Unionist administration was beginning 
to be unpopular. The Liberals had been out of office long 
enough for the electors to want a change. Democracy does 
not favour continuity. The Englishman will not, except on 
great occasions, be denied the indulgence of kicking out the 
Ministers of the Crown whoever they are and of reversing 
their policy whatever it is. I sailed out therefore upon an 
adverse tide. Moreover at that time the Conservatives were 



passing through the House of Commons a Tithes Bill mak 
ing things a little easier for the poor clergy in the Church 
of England. The Nonconformists including the Wesleyans 
who were very influential in Lancashire could not be ex 
pected to feel much enthusiasm for this. The Radicals, 
quite shameless in their mockery, went so far as to describe 
this benevolent measure as c The Clerical Doles Bill.' I need 
scarcely say that until I reached Oldham my heart had 
never bounded to any aspect of this controversy. Neither 
my education nor my military experiences had given me 
the slightest inkling of the passions which such a question 
could arouse. I therefore asked what it was all about. Most 
of my leading supporters seemed to agree with the Radi 
cals in thinking the Clerical Doles Bill was a great mistake. 
As soon as they had explained the issues to me, I saw a 
solution. Of course the clergy ought to be kept up properly. 
How could they maintain their position, if they were not? 
But why not keep them all up equally, as we should do in 
the Army? Measure each religion according to its congre 
gation, lump them together, and divide the extra money 
equally among them! This was fair, logical, reverent and 
conciliatory. I was surprised no one had thought of it 
before. But when I unfolded this plan to some of my com 
mittee, no one seemed to think it would meet the case. In 
fact they said it was no good at all. If everyone felt this, it 
was certainly true. So I dropped my eirenicon of concur 
rent endowment, and looked for other topics on which to 
woo what was then almost the largest constituency in the 

At this point I was joined by my new colleague in the 
fight. His accession was deemed to be a master stroke of 
the Central Office. He was none other than Mr. James 
Mawdsley, a Socialist and the much respected secretary of 
the Operative Spinners' Association. Mr. Mawdsley was the 
most genuine specimen of the Tory working-man candidate 
I have ever come across* He boldly proclaimed admiration 



of Tory democracy and even of Tory Socialism. Both parties 
he declared were hypocritical, but the Liberals were the 
worse. He for his part was proud to stand upon the platform 
with a c scion 5 of the ancient British aristocracy in the cause 
of the working people who knew him so well and had 
trusted him so long. I was much attracted by this develop 
ment, and for some days it seemed successful. The partner 
ship of c The Scion and the Socialist' seemed a splendid 
new orientation of politics. Unhappily the offensive and 
disagreeable Radicals went about spoiling this excellent im 
pression. They were aided by a lot of sulky fellows among 
the Trade Unionists. These accused poor Mr. Mawdsley of 
deserting his class. They were very rude about the Conserva 
tive party. They did not even stop short of being disrespect 
ful about Lord Salisbury, going so far as to say he was not 
progressive, and out of harmony with modern democratic 
sentiment. We of course repudiated these calumnies. In the 
end however all the Liberal and Radical Trade Unionists 
went off and voted for their party, and we were left with our 
own strong supporters rather upset by the appearance of a 
wicked Socialist on their platforms. 

Meanwhile our two opponents the Liberal champions 
proved themselves men of quality and mark. The senior, 
Mr. Emmott, came from a family which had driven many 
thousand spindles in Oldham for generations. Wealthy, 
experienced, in the prime of life, woven into the texture 
of the town, with abilities which afterwards raised him to 
high official rank, and at the head of the popular party in 
opposition to the Government, he was an antagonist not 
easily to be surpassed. The junior, Mr. Runciman, then a 
young and engaging figure, able, impeccable and very 
wealthy, was also a candidate of exceptional merit. My 
poor Trade Unionist friend and I would have had very great 
difficulty in finding 500 between us, yet we were accused of 
representing the vested interests of society, while our op 
ponents, who were certainly good for a quarter of a million, 



claimed to champion in generous fashion the causes of the 
poor and needy. A strange inversion! 

The fight was long and hard. I defended the virtues of 
the Government, the existing system of society, the Estab 
lished Church and the unity of the Empire. 'Never before' 
I declared 'were there so many people in England, and 
never before had they had so much to eat. 5 I spoke of the 
vigour and the strength of Britain, of the liberation of the 
Soudan and of the need to keep out the foreign goods made 
by prison labour. Mr. Mawdsley followed suit. Our op 
ponents deplored the misery of the working masses, the 
squalor of the slums, the glaring contrast between riches 
and poverty, and in particular, indeed above all, the iniqui 
ties of the Clerical Doles Bill. The contest would have been 
most uneven, but for the uncanny gift which the Lancashire 
working folk possess of balancing up the pros and cons 
of those who seek their votes. They apply all sorts of cor 
rectives to the obvious inequalities of the game. I delivered 
harangues from morning till night, and Mr. Mawdsley 
continued steadily to repeat his slogan that the Liberals 
were undoubtedly more hypocritical than the Tories. 

Oldham is a purely working-class constituency, and was 
in those days an extremely prosperous community. Not only 
did they spin cotton goods for India, China and Japan, but 
in addition they made at the great works of Asa Lees the 
machinery which was ultimately to enable India, China and 
Japan to spin these cotton goods for themselves. There was 
no hotel in the town where one could hope to sleep, and few 
wealthy houses 5 but there were many thousands of con 
tented working-class homes where for more than half a 
century things had been getting slowly and surely better. 
Tkey were rising in the scale of prosperity, with woollen 
shawls over the girls' heads, wooden dogs on their feet, 
and barefoot children. I have lived to see them falling back 
in the world's affairs, but still at a level far superior to that 
which they then deemed prosperity. In those days the say- 



ing was 'clogs to clogs in four generations': the first makes 
the money, the second increases it, the third squanders it, 
and the fourth returns to the mill. I lived to see them dis 
turbed because of a tax on silk stockings, with a style of 
life in my early days unknown, and yet gripped in the ever- 
narrowing funnel of declining trade and vanished ascen 
dancy. No one can come in close contact with the working 
folk of Lancashire without wishing them well. 

Half-way through the election all my principal supporters 
besought me to throw over the Clerical Doles Bill. As I 
was ignorant of the needs which had inspired it and detached 
from the passions which it aroused, the temptation to dis 
card it was very great. I yielded to the temptation. Amid the 
enthusiastic cheers of my supporters I announced that, if re 
turned, I would not vote for the measure. This was a fright 
ful mistake. It is not the slightest use defending Govern 
ments or parties unless you defend the very worst thing 
about which they are attacked. At the moment I made my 
declaration the most vehement debates were taking place 
upon this Bill. At Westminster the Government were 
taunted with the fact that their own chosen candidate could 
not face a Lancashire electorate upon the issue, and at Old- 
ham the other side, stimulated by my admission, redoubled 
their attacks upon the Bill. Live and learn! I think I may 
say without coiiceit that I was in those days a pretty good 
candidate. At any rate we had real enthusiasm on our side, 
and it rejoiced my heart to see these masses of working peo 
ple who ardently, and for no material advantage, asserted 
their pride in our Empire and their love for the ancient tra 
ditions of the realm. However, when the votes were counted 
we were well beaten. In a poll of about 23,000 votes then 
as big as was known in England I was 1,300 behind and 
Mr. Mawdsley about 30 lower. 

Then came the recriminations which always follow every 
kind of defeat. Everyone threw the blame on me, I have 
noticed that they nearly, always do. I suppose it is because 



they think I shall be able to bear it best. The high Tories 
and the Carlton Club said 'Serve him right for standing 
with a Socialist. No man of any principle would have done 
such a thing!' Mr. Balfour, then leader of the House of 
Commons, on hearing that I had declared against his Cleri 
cal Tithes Bill, said in the Lobby, quite justifiably I must 
admit, 'I thought he was a young man of promise, but it 
appears he is a young man of promises.' Party newspapers 
wrote leading articles to say what a mistake it was to entrust 
the fighting of great working-class constituencies to young 
and inexperienced candidates, and everyone then made haste 
to pass away from a dismal incident. I returned to London 
with those feelings of deflation which a bottle of champagne 
or even soda-water represents when it has been half emptied 
and left uncorked for a night. 

No one came to see me on my return to my mother's 
house. However Mr. Balfour, always loyal and compre 
hending, wrote me a letter every word in his own hand 
writing which I have just unearthed from my most ancient 


I was very sorry to hear of your ill success at Oldham, 
as I had greatly hoped to see you speedily in the House 
where your father and I fought many a good battle side 
by side in days gone by. I hope however you will not be 
discouraged by what has taken place. For many reasons 
this is a very unpropitious time to fight by-elections. At 
by-elections the opposition can safely entrench themselves 
behind criticism and are not driven to put a rival programme 
in the field. This is at all times an advantage 5 it is doubly 
an advantage when the rival programme would have to 
include so unpromising an item as Home Rule. Moreover 
opposition criticism falls just now upon willing ears. The 
employers dislike the compensation bill 5 the doctors dislike 
the vaccination billj the general public dislike the clergy, so 



the rating bill is unpopular: the clergy resented your repudi 
ation of the bill: the Orangemen are sulky and refuse to be 
conciliated even by the promise to vote for the Liverpool 
proposals. Of course those benefited by our measures are 
not grateful, while those who suppose themselves to be in 
jured resent them. Tjruly unpromising conditions under 
which to fight a Lancashire seat! 

Never mind, it will all come right; and this small reverse 
will have no permanent ill effect upon your political fortunes. 

At the end of this July I had a good long talk with Mr. 
Chamberlain. Although I had several times met him at 
my father's house, and he had greeted me on other occasions 
in a most kindly manner, this was the first time I really made 
his acquaintance. We were both the guests of my friend, 
Lady Jeune. She had a pleasant house upon the Thames: 
and in the afternoon we cruised along the river in a launch. 
Unlike Mr. Asquith, who never talked 'shop' out of busi 
ness hours if he could help it, Mr. Chamberlain was always 
ready to discuss politics. He was most forthcoming and at 
the same time startlingly candid and direct. His conversation 
was a practical political education in itself. He knew every 
detail, every turn and twist of the game, and understood 
deeply the moving forces at work in both the great parties, 
of whose most aggressive aspirations he had in turn been 
the champion. In the main both in the launch and after 
wards at dinner the conversation lay between us. South 
Africa had begun again to be a growing topic* The negotia 
tions with President Kruger about the delicate, deadly ques 
tion of suzerainty were gradually engaging national and 
indeed world attention. The reader may be sure I was keen 
that a strong line should be taken, and I remember Mr. 
Chamberlain saying, 'It is no use blowing the trumpet for 
the charge and then looking around to find nobody follow 
ing.' Later we passed an old man seated upright in his chair 
on a lawn at the brink of the river. Lady Jeune said, 'Look, 



there is Labouchere.' 'A bundle of old rags!' was Mr. Cham 
berlain's comment as he turned his head away from his 
venomous political opponent. I was struck by the expres 
sion of disdain and dislike which passed swiftly but with 
intensity across his face. I realised as by a lightning flash, 
how stern were the hatreds my famous, agreeable, vivacious 
companion had contracted and repaid in his quarrel with the 
Liberal party and Mr. Gladstone. 

For the rest I was plunged in The River War. All the 
hard work was done and I was now absorbed in the delight 
ful occupation of playing with the proofs. Being now free 
from military discipline, I was able to write what I thought 
about Lord Kitchener without fear, favour or affection, and 
I certainly did so. I had been scandalised by his desecration 
of the Mahdi's Tomb and the barbarous manner in which 
he had carried off the MahdPs head in a kerosene-can as a 
trophy. There had already been a heated debate in Parlia 
ment upon this incident, and I found myself sympathising 
in the gallery with the attacks which John Morley and Mr. 
C. P. Scott, the austere editor of the Manchester Guardian, 
had launched against the general. The Mahdi's head was 
just one of those trifles about which an immense body of 
rather gaseous feeling can be generated. All the Liberals 
were outraged by an act which seemed to them worthy of 
the Huns and Vandals. All the Tories thought it rather a 
lark. So here was I already out of step. 

We planned to publish about the middle of October, and 
I was already counting the days till the two massive volumes, 
my Magnum Of us (up to date), upon which I had lavished 
a whole year of my life, should be launched upon an ex 
pectant public. 

But when the middle of October came, we all had other 
thiags to think about. 



GREAT quarrels, it has been said, often arise from small 
occasions but never from small causes. The immedi 
ate preliminaries of the South African War were followed 
throughout England, and indeed the whole world, with 
minute attention. The long story of the relations of Briton 
and Boer since Majuba Hill, and the still longer tale of 
misunderstandings which had preceded that ill-omened 
episode, were familiar to wide publics. Every step in the 
negotiations and dispute of 1899 was watched with unceas 
ing vigilance and debated in the sharpest challenge by the 
Opposition in the House of Commons. As the months of 
the summer and autumn passed, the dividing line in British 
politics was drawn between those who felt that war with the 
Boer Republics was necessary and inevitable and those who 
were resolved by every effort of argument, patience and 
prevision to prevent it. 

The summer months were sultry. The atmosphere gradu 
ally but steadily became tense, charged with electricity, 
laden with the presage of storm. Ever since the Jameson 
raid three years before, the Transvaal had been arming 
heavily. A well-armed Police held the Outlanders in strict 
subjection, and German engineers were tracing the outlines 
of a fort overlooking Johannesburg to dominate the city 
with its artillery. Cannon, ammunition, rifles streamed in 
from Holland and Germany iii quantities sufficient not only 
to equip the populations of the two Boer Republics, but to 
arm a still larger number of the Dutch race throughout 
the Cape Colony. Threatened by rebellion as well as war, 
the British Government slowly increased its garrisons in 
Natal and at the Cape. Meanwhile notes and dispatches 



ever-deepening gravity, between Downing Street and Pre 
toria, succeeded one another in a sombre chain. 

Suddenly in the early days of October the bold, daring 
men who directed the policy of the Transvaal resolved to 
bring the issue to a head. An ultimatum requiring the with 
drawal of the British forces from the neighbourhood of the 
Republican frontiers, and the arrest of further reinforce 
ments, was telegraphed from Pretoria on the 8th. The 
notice allowed before its expiry was limited to three days. 
And from that moment war was certain. 

The Boer ultimatum had not ticked out on the tape 
machines for an hour before Oliver Borthwick came to offer 
me an appointment as principal War Correspondent of the 
Morning Post. 250 a month, all expenses paid, entire dis 
cretion as to movements and opinions, four months' mini 
mum guarantee of employment such were the terms j 
higher, I think, than any previously paid in British journal 
ism to War Correspondents, and certainly attractive to a 
young man of twenty-four with no responsibilities but to 
earn his own living. The earliest steamer, the Dtmottar 
Castle, sailed on the nth, and I took my passage forth 

Preparations made in joyous expectation occupied my few 
remaining hours at home. London seethed with patriotic 
excitement and fierce Party controversy. In quick succes 
sion there arrived the news that the Boers themselves had 
taken the initiative and that their forces were advancing both 
towards the Cape Colony and Natal, that General Sir 
Redvers Buller had become the British Commander-in- 
Chief, that the Reserves were called out, and that our only 
Army Corps was to be sent at once to Table Bay. 

I thought I would try to see Mr. Chamberlain before I 
sailed. Busy though the Minister was, he gave me rendez 
vous at the Colonial Office; and when I was unable to get 
there in time, he sent me a message to come to his house at 
Prince's Gardens early the next morning. There accordingly 



I visited this extraordinary man at one of the most fateful 
moments in his public career. He was as usual smoking a 
cigar. He presented me with another. We talked for about 
ten minutes on the situation, and I explained what I was 
going to do. Then he said, *I must go to the Colonial 
Office. You may drive with me, and we can talk on the 

In those days it took a quarter of an hour to drive in a 
hansom-cab from Prince's Gardens to Whitehall. I would 
not have had the journey shortened for anything. Mr. 
Chamberlain was most optimistic about the probable course 
of the war. 

'Buller,' he said, 'may well be too late. He would have 
been wiser to have gone out earlier. Now, if the Boers invade 
Natal, Sir George White with his sixteen thousand men may 
easily settle the whole thing.' 

'What about Maf eking?' I asked. 

'Ah, Mafeking, that may be besieged. But if they can 
not hold out for a few weeks, what is one to expect?' 

Then he added prudently, 'Of course I have to base my 
self on the War Office opinion. They are all quite confi 
dent. I can only go by what they say.' 

The British War Office of those days was the product of 
two generations of consistent House of Commons parsi 
mony, unbroken by any serious call. So utterly unrelated 
to the actual facts were its ideas at this time that to an 
Australian request to be allowed to send a contingent of 
troops, the only reply was, 'Unmounted men preferred/ 
Nevertheless their own Intelligence Branch which lived in 
a separate building had prepared two volumes on the Boer 
Republics afterwards presented to Parliament which 
gave most full and accurate information. Sir John Ardagh, 
the head of this branch, told Lord Lansdowne, the Secretary 
of State for War, that 200,000 men would be required* 
His views were scouted - y and the two volumes sent to Buller 
were returned within an hour with the message that he 



c knew everything about South Africa.' Mr. George Wynd- 
ham, the Under Secretary of State, who dined with me one 
of these nights, alone seemed to appreciate the difficulties and 
magnitude of the task. The Boers, he said, were thoroughly 
prepared and acting on definite plans. They had large quan 
tities of munitions, including a new form of heavy Maxim 
firing I -inch shells. (This we afterwards learned to know 
quite well as the Pompom.} He thought that the opening of 
the campaign might be unpleasant, that the British forces 
might be attacked in detail, that they might be surrounded 
here and there by a far more mobile foe, and having been 
brought to a standstill, might be pounded to pieces with 
these same i-inch Maxims. I must confess that in the ardour 
of youth I was much relieved to learn that the war would 
not be entirely one-sided or peter out in a mere parade of 
demonstration. I thought it very sporting of the Boers to 
take on the whole British Empire, and I felt quite glad 
they were not defenceless and had put themselves in the 
wrong by making preparations. 

Let us learn our lessons. Never, never, never believe any 
war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks 
on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes 
he will encounter. The Statesman who yields to war fever 
must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the 
master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncon 
trollable events. Antiquated War Offices, weak, incompe 
tent or arrogant Commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile 
neutrals, malignant Fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscal 
culations all take their seats at the Council Board on the 
morrow of a declaration of war. Always remember, how 
ever sure you are that you can easily win, that there would 
not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a 



One of my father's oldest friends, Billy Gerard, had some 
years before extracted a promise from Sir Redvers Buller 



(as I had done from Sir Bindon Blood) that, if ever that 
general received the command of an army in the field, he 
would take him on his staff. Lord Gerard was now an 
elderly man, of great wealth, extremely well known in 
society and one of the leading owners on the Turf. His 
approaching departure for the front was made the occasion 
of a dinner given by Sir Ernest Cassel in his honour at 
the Carlton Hotel. I was associated as a second string in 
this demonstration. The Prince of Wales and about forty 
men of the ruling generation formed a powerful and a merry 
company. Gerard's function was to look after the personal 
comfort of the Commander-in-Chief , and for this purpose 
he was presented at the dinner with I do not know how 
many cases of the very best champagne and the very oldest 
brandy which the cellars of London boasted. He was in 
formed by the donors that he was to share these blessings 
freely with me whenever opportunity arose. Everyone was 
in that mood of gaiety and heartiness which so often salutes 
an outbreak of war. One of our company who was also 
starting for the front had from time to time in his past 
life shown less self-control in the use of alcohol than is to 
be desired. Indeed he had become a byword. As he rose to 
leave us, Lord Marcus Beresf ord said with great earnestness 
"Good-bye, old man, mind the V.C" To this our poor 
friend, deeply moved, replied "I'll do my best to win it/* 
"Ah!" said Lord Marcus, "you are mistaken, I did not 
mean that, I meant the Vieux Cognac." 

I may here add that these cases of champagne and brandy 
and my share in them fell among the many disappointments 
of war. In order to make sure that they reached the head 
quarters intact, Lord Gerard took the precaution of label 
ling them ^Castor Oil/ Two months later in Natal, when 
they had not yet arrived, he despatched an urgent telegram 
to the base at Durban asking for his castor oil. The reply 
came back that the packages of this drug addressed to His 
Lordship had by an error already been issued to the hos 
pitals. There were now, however, ample stores of castoi; 



oil available at the base and the Commandant was forward 
ing a full supply forthwith! 

Many of our South African experiences were to be upon 
a similar plane. 

The Dunottar Castle sailed from Southampton on Oc 
tober ii, the day of the expiry of the Boer ultimatum. It 
did not only carry the Correspondent of the Morning Post 
and his fortunes j Sir Redvers Buller and the entire Head 
quarters Staff of our one (and only) organized army corps 
were also on its passenger list. Buller was a characteristic 
British personality. He looked stolid. He said little, and 
what he said was obscure. He was not the kind of man who 
could explain things, and he never tried to do so. He usually 
grunted, or nodded, or shook his head, in serious discus 
sions 5 and shop of all kinds was sedulously excluded from 
his ordinary conversation. He had shown himself a brave 
and skilful officer in his youth, and for nearly twenty years 
he had filled important administrative posts of a sedentary 
character in Whitehall. As his political views were coloured 
with Liberalism, he was regarded as a very sensible soldier. 
His name had long been before the public 3 and with all these 
qualities it is no wonder that their belief in him was un 
bounded. 'My confidence,' said Lord Salisbury at the Guild 
hall, on November 9, 1899, c m the British soldier is only 
equalled by my confidence in Sir Redvers Buller.' Certainly 
he was a man of a considerable scale. He plodded on from 
blunder to blunder and from one disaster to another, with 
out losing either the regard of his country or the trust of his 
troops, to whose feeding as well as his own he paid serious 
attention. Independent, portentous, a man of the world, 
and a man of affairs he gave the same sort of impression 
to the British at this juncture as we afterwards saw effected 
on the French nation through the personality of General 

While the issues of peace and war seemed to hang in their 
last flickering balance, and before a single irrevocable shot 
had been fired, we steamed off into grey storms. There was 



of course no wireless in those days, and therefore at this most 
exciting moment the Commander-in-Chief , the Headquarters 
Staff and the Correspondent of the Morning Post dropped 
completely out of the world. Still we expected news at Ma 
deira, which was reached on the fourth day. There was no 
news at Madeira, except that negotiations were at an end 
and that troops on both sides were moving. In this suspense 
we glided off again, this time into the blue. 

We had now to pass a fortnight completely cut off from 
all view of the drama which filled our thoughts. It was a 
fortnight of cloudless skies and calm seas, through which 
the Cape Liner cut her way with placid unconcern. She did 
not even increase her speed above the ordinary commercial 
rate. Such a measure would have been unprecedented. Near 
ly fifty years had passed since Great Britain had been at war 
with any white people, and the idea that time played any 
vital part in such a business seemed to be entirely absent 
from all her methods. Absolute tranquillity lapped the peace 
ful ship. The usual sports and games of a sea voyage occu 
pied her passengers, civil and military alike. Buller trod the 
deck each day with sphinx-like calm. The general opinion 
among the Staff was that it would be all over before they 
got there. Some of our best officers were on board, and they 
simply could not conceive how 'irregular, amateur* forces 
like the Boers could make any impression against disciplined 
professional soldiers. If the Boers broke into Natal, they 
would immediately come up against General Penn Symonds 
who lay with a whole infantry brigade, a cavalry regiment 
and two batteries of artillery, at Dundee in the extreme north 
of Natal. The fear of the Staff was that such a shock would 
so discomfort them that they would never again try con 
clusions with regular forces. All this was very disheartening, 
and I did not wonder that Sir Redvers Buller often looked 
so glum. 

Twelve days passed in silence, peace and speculation, I 
had constructed a dozen imaginary situations, ranging from 
the capture of Cape Town by Kruger to the capture o Pre- 



toria by Sir George White or even by General Penn Sym- 
onds. None of them carried conviction to my mind. How 
ever, in two more days we should know all that had hap 
pened in this trance-like fortnight. The Interval would be 
over. The curtain would rise again on the world's scene. 
What should we see? I thought it must be very hard for 
General Buller to bear the suspense. What would he give to 
know what was taking place? How silly of the Government 
not to send out a torpedo boat to meet him five days from 
land and put him in possession of all the facts, so that he 
could adjust his mind to the problem and think over his first 
steps coolly and at leisure! 

Suddenly there was a stir on deck. A ship was sighted 
right ahead, coming that is to say from the land of knowl 
edge. We drew together rapidly. I think she would have 
passed us about a mile away but for the fact that some of 
the younger ones among us started a buzz of excitement. 
'Surely we can get some news from her? Can't we stop her? 
She will have the Cape newspapers on board! Surely we 
are not going to let her go by without making an effort?' 

These murmurs reached the ears of high seniority. Grave 
counsel was taken. It was decided that it would be unusual 
to stop a ship at sea. Possibly there might be a claim for 
damages against the Government, or some other penalty 
like that which happens if you pull the communication-cord 
without sufficient provocation. As a bold half-measure signals 
were made to the steamer, asking for news. On this she 
altered her course and steamed past us little more than a 
hundred yards' distance. She was a tramp steamer with per 
haps twenty persons on board. They all gathered to look at 
us, and we as the reader may well believe returned the 
compliment. A blackboard was held up from the deck of 
the tramp, and on this we read the following legend: 






Then she faded away behind us, and we were left to 
meditate upon this cryptic message. 

The Staff were frankly consternated. There had evi 
dently been fighting actual battles! And a British Gen 
eral had been killed! It must therefore have been severe 
fighting. It was hardly possible the Boers would have any 
strength left. Was it likely, if they had been defeated in 
three battles, they would continue their hopeless struggle? 
Deep gloom settled down upon our party. Buller alone re 
mained doggedly inscrutable, a tower of strength in times of 
trouble. He had read the message through his field-glasses, 
but had made no sign. It was not until some minutes had 
passed that a Staff Officer ventured to address him. 

*It looks as if it will be over, sir.* 

Thus pressed, the great man answered in the following 

*I dare say there will be enough left to give us a fight 
outside Pretoria.* 

His military instinct was sure and true. There was quite 
enough left! 

This impressive utterance restored our morale. It was 
repeated from one to another, and it ran through the ship 
in a few moments. Every eye was brighter. Every heart felt 
lighter of its load. The Staff Officers congratulated one 
another, and the Aides-de-Camp skipped for joy. The op 
timism was so general that no one turned and rent me when 
I uplifted my voice and said *that it would only have taken 
ten minutes to have stopped the ship and got proper in 
formation so that we should all know where we were.' On 
the contrary reasonable answer was made to me as follows: 

c lt is the weakness of youth to be impatient. We should 
know everything that had happened quite soon enough. 
Sir Redvers Buller had shown his characteristic phlegm in 
not seeking to anticipate the knowledge which would be at 
his disposal on landing at Cape Town. Moreover, as the 
remaining battle would, in the Commander-in-ChiePs opia- 



ion, not take place until we reached Pretoria, and as Pretoria 
was upwards of seven hundred miles from Cape Town, there 
would be plenty of time to make all the arrangements neces 
sary for disposing of what was left of the Boer resistance. 
Finally, the habit of questioning the decisions of superior 
officers in time of war, or in time of peace for that matter, 
was much to be regretted even in a War Correspondent, and 
more particularly in one who had quite recently worn the 
uniform of an officer. 5 

I, however, remained impenitent and unconvinced. 




IT was dark when we anchored in Table Bay; but innumer 
able lights twinkled from the shore, and a stir of launches 
soon beset our vessel. High functionaries and naval and mili 
tary officers arrived, bearing their reports. The Headquar 
ters staff sat up all night to read them. I got hold of a 
bundle of newspapers and studied these with equal atten 
tion. 1 

The Boers had invaded Natal, had attacked our advanced 
forces at Dundee, and though defeated in the action of Ta- 
lana Hill, had killed General Penn Symonds and very nearly 
rounded up the three or four thousand troops he had com 
manded as they made their hurried and hazardous retreat to 
Ladysmith. At Ladysmith Sir George White at the head of 
twelve or thirteen thousand men, with forty or fifty guns and 
a brigade of cavalry, attempted to bar their further advance* 
The intention of the British Government, though this I did 
not know at the time, was that he should retire southwards 
across the Tugela, delaying the Boer advance until he could 
be joined by the large reinforcements now hastening across 
the oceans from England and India. Above all, he was not 
to let himself be cut off and surrounded. The British war 
plan contemplated the temporary sacrifice of Northern Na 
tal, the projecting triangle of which was obviously not 
defensible, and the advance of the main army under Buller 
from the Cape Colony through the Orange Free State to 
Pretoria. All this was soon deranged. 

1 For this and the following chapters, see map of the South African 
theatre, facing page 252. 



I remember one night in after years that I said to Mr. 
Balfour at dinner how badly Sir George White had been 
treated. A look of implacable sternness suddenly replaced 
his easy, smiling, affable manner. A different man looked 
out upon me. 'We owe to him,' he said, c the Ladysmith 

On the very day of our arrival (October 31) grave events 
had taken place around Ladysmith. General White, who 
had gained a local success at Elandslaagte, attempted an 
ambitious offensive movement against the elusive, advanc 
ing, enveloping Boer commandos. A disaster had occurred. 
Nearly twelve hundred British infantry had been forced to 
surrender at Nicholson's Nek, and the rest of the widely- 
dispersed forces were thrown back upon Ladysmith. This 
they hastily converted into an entrenched camp of wide 
extent, and being speedily invested on all sides by the Boers, 
and their railway cut, settled down in a prolonged siege to 
await relief. The Boers, having encircled them on all sides, 
had left two-thirds of their forces to block them in, and 
were presumably about to pass on with the rest across the 
Tugela River into Southern Natal. Meanwhile in the west 
other Boer forces had similarly encircled Mafeking and 
Kimberley, and sat down stolidly to the process of starving 
them out. Finally, the Dutch areas of the Cape Colony it 
self were quivering upon the verge of rebellion. Through 
out the vast sub-continent every man's hand was against 
his brother, and the British Government could, for the mo 
ment, be sure of nothing beyond the gunshot of the Navy. 

Although I knew neither our plan nor the enemy's situ 
ation and all news of the day's disaster in Natal was still 
suppressed, it was clear as soon as we had landed that the 
first heavy fighting would come in Natal. Buller's Army 
Corps would take a month or six weeks to assemble in Cape 
Town and Port Elizabeth. There would be time to watch 
the Natal operations and come back to Cape Colony for the 
main advance. So I thought, and so, a few days later, to 



his subsequent sorrow, thought Sir Redvers Buller. All traffic 
through the Free State was of course interrupted, and to 
reach Natal involved a railway journey of 700 miles by 
De Aar Junction and Stormberg to Port Elizabeth, and 
thence by a small mailboat or tug to Durban four days in 
all. The railroad from De Aar to Stormberg ran parallel to 
the hostile frontier. It was quite undefended and might be 
cut at any moment. However, the authorities thought there 
was a good chance of getting through, so in company with 
the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, a charming 
young man, Mr. J. B. Atkins, later the Editor of the Spec 
tator > I started forthwith. Our train was in fact the last that 
got round, and when we reached Stormberg the station staff 
were already packing up. 

We sailed from East London upon a steamer of about 
150 tons, in the teeth of a horrible Antarctic gale. Indeed I 
thought the little ship would be overwhelmed amid the 
enormous waves or else be cast away upon the rocks which 
showed their black teeth endlessly a bare mile away upon 
our port beam. But all these misgivings were quickly dis 
pelled by the most appalling paroxysms of sea-sickness which 
it has ever been my lot to survive. I really do not think I 
could have lifted a finger to save my life. There was a 
stuffy cabin, or caboose, below decks in the stern of the 
vessel, in which six or seven members of the crew lived, 
slept and ate their meals. In a bunk of this I lay in an 
extreme of physical misery while our tiny ship bounded and 
reeled, and kicked and pitched, and fell and turned almost 
over and righted itself again, or, for all I know, turned right 
round, hour after hour through an endless afternoon, a still 
longer evening and an eternal night. I remembered that Titus 
Gates lived in good health for many years after his prodig 
ious floggings, and upon this reflection, combined with a 
firm trust that Providence would do whatever was best, were 
founded such hopes as I could still retain. 

There is an end to everything, and happily nothing fades 



so quickly as the memory of physical pain. Still my voyage 
to Durban is a recollection which, in the jingle of the 'Bab 


*I shall carry to the catacombs of age, 
Photographically lined 
On the tablets of my mind, 
When a yesterday has faded from its page.* 


We landed at Durban and travelled a night's journey to 
Pietermaritzburg. The hospital was already full of wounded. 
Here I found Reggie Barnes shot through the thigh. He had 
been hit at dose range in our brilliant little victory at 
Elandslaagte Station in which my friend Ian Hamilton, now 
a General, had commanded. He told me all about the fight 
ing and how skilful the Boers were with horse and rifle. 
He also showed me his leg. No bone was broken, but it was 
absolutely coal black from hip to toe. The surgeon reassured 
me afterwards that it was only bruising, and not mortifica 
tion as I feared. That night I travelled on to Estcourt, a 
tiny tin township of a few hundred inhabitants, beyond 
which the trains no longer ran. 

It had been my intention to get into Ladysmith, where 
I knew Ian Hamilton would look after me and give me a 
good show. I was too late, the door was shut. The Boers 
had occupied Colenso Station on the Tugela River and 
held the iron railway bridge. General French and his staff, 
which included both Haig and Herbert Lawrence, 1 had 
just slipped through under artillery fire in the last train 
out of Ladysmith on his way to the Cape Colony, where 
the main cavalry forces were to be assembled. There was 
nothing to do but to wait at Estcourt with such handfuls 
of troops as were being hurriedly collected to protect the 
southern part of Natal from the impending Boer invasion. 
A single battalion of Dublin Fusiliers, two or three guns 
and a few squadrons of Natal Caribineers, two companies of 

1 Commander-in-Chief, and Chief of the Staff respectively in 1917-18. 



Durban Light Infantry and an armoured train, were the 
only forces which remained for the defence of the Colony. 
All the rest of the Natal Army was blockaded in Ladysmith. 
Reinforcements were hurrying to the spot from all parts of 
the British Empire 5 but during the week I was at Estcourt 
our weakness was such that we expected to be ourselves sur 
rounded almost every day, and could do little but fortify our 
post and wear a confident air. 

At Estcourt I found old friends. Leo Amery, the monitor 
I had unluckily pushed into the bathing pool at Harrow ten 
years before, afterwards long my colleague in Parliament 
and Government, was now one of the war correspondents of 
the Times. We were able for the first time to meet on terms 
of equality and fraternity, and together with my friend of 
the Manchester Guardian we took up our abode in an empty 
bell tent that stood in the shunting triangle of the railway 
station. That evening, walking in the single street of the 
town, whom should I meet but Captain Haldane^ who had 
been so helpful in procuring me my appointment to Sir 
William Lockhart's staff during the Tirah Expedition. Hal- 
dane had been wounded at Elandslaagte, and had hoped to 
rejoin his battalion of Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith, 
and tieing like me held up by the enemy, had been given the 
temporary command of a company of the Dublin Fusiliejrs, 
The days passed slowly and anxiously. The position of our 
small force was most precarious. At any moment ten or 
twelve thousand mounted Boers might sweep forward to 
attack us or cut off our retreat. Yet it was necessary to hold 
Estcourt as long and in as firm a posture as possible. Cavalry 
reconnaissances were pushed out every morning for ten or 
fifteen miles towards the enemy to give us timely notice of 
their expected advance j and in an unlucky moment it oc 
curred to the General in command on the spot to send his 
armoured train along the sixteen miles of intact railway line 
to supplement the efforts of the cavalry. 

Nothing looks more formidable and impressive than aa 



armoured train $ but nothing is in fact more vulnerable and 
helpless. It was only necessary to blow up a bridge or culvert 
to leave the monster stranded far from home and help, at 
the mercy of the enemy. This situation did not seem to have 
occurred to our commander. He decided to put a company 
of the Dublin Fusiliers and a company of the Durban Light 
Infantry into an armoured train of six trucks, and add a 
small six-pounder naval gun with some sailors landed from 
H.M.S. Terrible, together with a break-down gang, and to 
send this considerable portion of his force out to recon 
noitre towards Colenso. Captain Haldane was the officer he 
selected for the duty of commanding this operation. Hal 
dane told me on the night of November 14 of the task which 
had been set him for the next day and on which he was to 
start at dawn. He did not conceal his misgivings on the im 
prudence of the enterprise, but he was of course, like every 
one else at the beginning of a war, very keen upon adven 
ture and a brush with the enemy. c Would I come with him?' 
He would like it if I did! Out of comradeship, and because 
r I thought it was my duty to gather as much information as 
I could for the Morning Post, also because I was eager for 
trouble, I accepted the invitation without demur. 

The military events which followed are well known and 
have often been discussed. The armoured train proceeded 
about fourteen miles towards the enemy and got as far as 
Chieveley station without a sign of opposition or indeed of 
life or movement on the broad undulations of the Natal 
landscape. We stopped for a few moments at Chieveley to 
report our arrival at this point by telegraph to the General. 
No sooner had we done this than we saw, on a hill between 
us and home which overlooked the line at about 600 yards 
distance, a number of small figures moving about and hurry 
ing forward. Certainly they were Boers. Certainly they were 
behind us. What would they be doing with the railway line? 
There was not an instant to lose. We started immediately on 
our return journey. As we approached the hill, I was stand- 


The Start 


The End 


ing on a box with my head and shoulders above the steel 
plating of the rear armoured truck. I saw a cluster of Boers 
on the crest. Suddenly three wheeled things appeared among 
them, and instantly bright flashes of light opened and shut 
ten or twelve times. A huge white ball of smoke sprang into 
being and tore out into a cone, only as it seemed a few feet 
above my head. It was shrapnel the first I had ever seen 
in war, and very nearly the last! The steel sides of the truck 
tanged with a patter of bullets. There was a crash from the 
front of the train, and a series of sharp explosions. The rail 
way line curved round the base of the hill on a steep down 
gradient, and under the stimulus of the enemy's fire, as well 
as of the slope, our pace increased enormously. The Boer 
artillery (two guns and a pom-pom) had only time for one 
discharge before we were round the corner out of their sight. 
It had flashed across my mind that there must be some trap 
farther on. I was just turning to Haldane to suggest that 
someone should scramble along the train and make the en 
gine-driver reduce speed, when suddenly there was a tre 
mendous shock, and he and I and all the soldiers in the 
truck were pitched head over heels on to its floor. The ar 
moured train travelling at not less than forty miles an hour 
had been thrown off the metals by some obstruction, or by 
some injury to the line. 

In our truck no one was seriously hurt, and it took but a 
few seconds for me to scramble to my feet and look over the 
top of the armour. The train lay in a valley about i^oo 
yards on the homeward side of the enemy's hill. On the 
top of this hill were scores of figures running forward and 
throwing themselves down in the grass, from which there 
came almost immediately an accurate and heavy rifle fire. 
The bullets whistled overhead and rang and splattered on 
the steel plates like a hailstorm. I got down from my perch, 
and Haldane and I debated what to do. It was agreed that 
he with the little naval gun and his Dublin Fusiliers in the 
rear truck should endeavour to keep down the enemy's fir- 


ing, and that I should go and see what had happened to the 
train, what was the damage to the line, and whether there 
was any chance of repairing it or clearing the wreckage out 
of the way. 

I nipped out of the truck accordingly and ran along the 
line to the head of the train. 1 The engine was still on the 
rails. The first truck, an ordinary bogey, had turned com 
pletely head over heels, killing and terribly injuring some 
of the plate-layers who were upon it; but it lay quite clear 
of the track. The next two armoured trucks, which contained 
the Durban Light Infantry, were both derailed, one still up 
right and the other on its side. They lay jammed against 
each other in disorder, blocking the homeward path of the 
rest. Behind the overturned trucks the Durban Light In 
fantry men, bruised, shaken and some severely injured, had 
found a temporary shelter. The enemy's fire was continu 
ous, and soon there mingled with the rifles the bang of the 
field guns and the near explosion of their shells. We were 
in the toils of the enemy. 

As I passed the engine another shrapnel burst immedi 
ately as it seemed overhead, hurling its contents with a rasp 
ing rush through the air. The driver at once sprang out of 
the cab and ran to the shelter of the overturned trucks. His 
face cut open by a splinter streamed with blood, and he com 
plained in bitter, futile indignation. <He was a civilian. What 
did they think he was paid for? To be killed by a bomb 
shell not he! He would not stay another minute.' It looked 
as if his excitement and misery he was dazed by the blow 
on his head would prevent him from working the engine 
further, and as only he understood the machinery, the hope 
of escape would thus be cut off. So I told him that no man 
was hit twice on the same day: that a wounded man who 
continued to do his duty was always rewarded for distin 
guished gallantry, and that he might never have this chance 

diagram on page 251. 



again. On this he pulled himself together, wiped the blood 
off his face, climbed back into the cab of his engine, and 
thereafter obeyed every order which I gave him. 1 

I formed the opinion that it would be possible, using the 
engine as a ram, to pull and push the two wrecked trucks 
clear of the line, and consequently that escape for the whole 
force was possible* The line appeared to be uninjured, no 
rail had been removed. I returned along the line to Captain 
Haldane's truck and told him through a loophole what was 
the position and what I proposed we should do. He agreed 
to all I said and undertook to keep the enemy hotly engaged 

I was very lucky in the hour that followed not to be hit. 
It was necessary for me to be almost continuously moving 
up and down the train or standing in the open, telling the 
engine-driver what to do. The first thing was to detach the 
truck which was half off the rails from the one completely 
so. To do this the engine had to be removed so as to tug 
the partly-derailed truck backwards along the line until it 
was clear of the other wreckage, and then to throw it com 
pletely off the rails. The dead weight of the iron truck half 
on the sleepers was enormous, and the engine wheels skidded 
vainly several times before any hauling power was obtained. 
At last the truck was drawn sufficiently far back, and I called 
for volunteers to overturn it from the side, while the engine 
pushed it from the end. It was very evident that these men 
would be exposed to considerable danger. Twenty were called 
for and there was an immediate response, but only nine men, 
including the Major of the Durban Light Infantry and four 
or five of the Dublin Fusiliers, actually stepped out into the 

*It was more than ten years before I was able to make good my promise. 
Nothing was done for this man by the military authorities; but when in 
1910 I was Home Secretary, it was my duty to advise the King upon the 
awards of the Albert Medal. I therefore revived the old records, com 
municated with the Governor of Natal and the railway company, and ulti 
mately both the driver and his fireman received the highest reward for 
gallantry open to civilians. 



open. The attempt was nevertheless successful. The truck 
heeled over further under their pressure, and the engine 
giving a shove at the right moment, it fell off the line, and 
the track seemed clear. Safety and success appeared in sight 
together, but one of the bitterest disappointments of my life 
overtook them. 

The footplate of the engine was about 6 in. wider than 
the tender and jammed against the corner of the newly 
overturned truck. It did not seem safe to push very hard, 
lest^the engine itself should be derailed. We uncoupled the 
engine from the rear trucks, and time after time moved it 
back a yard or two and butted forward at the obstruction. 
Each time it moved a little, but soon it was evident that com 
plications had set in. The newly-derailed truck had become 
jammed in a "f"-shaped position with the one originally off 
the line, and the more the engine pushed, the greater became 
the block. 

It occurred to me that if the trucks only jammed tighter 
after the forward pushing, they might be loosened by again 
pulling backwards. Now however a new difficulty arose. 
The coupling chains of the engine would not reach by five or 
six inches those of the overturned truck. Search was made 
for a spare coupling. By a solitary gleam of good luck, one 
was found. The engine hauled at the wreckage and before 
the chain parted pulled it about a yard backwards and off 
the track. Now surely the line was clear at last. But again 
the corner of the engine footplate jammed with the corner 
of the truck, and again we came to a jarring halt. The heat 
and excitement of the work were such as to absorb me com 
pletely. I remember thinking that it was like working in 
front of an iron target at a rifle range at which men were 
continually firing. We struggled for seventy minutes among 
these clanging, rending iron boxes, amid the repeated ex 
plosions of shells and the ceaseless hammering of bullets, 
and with only five or six inches of twisted ironwork to make 
the difference between danger, captivity and shame on the 



one hand, and safety, freedom and triumph on the other. 

Above all things we had to be careful not to throw the 
engine off the line. But at last, as the artillery firing steadily 
increased and the second gun came into action from the op 
posite flank, I decided to run a great risk. The engine was 
backed to its fullest extent and driven full tilt at the ob 
struction. There was a harsh crunching tear, the engine 
reeled on the rails, and as the obstructing truck reared up 
wards ground its way past and gained the homeward side, 
free and, as it turned out, safe. But our three remaining 
trucks were fifty yards away, still the wrong side of the ob 
struction, which had fallen back into its original place after 
the engine had passed. What were we to do? Certainly we 
could not take the engine back. Could we then drag the 
trucks by hand up to the engine? They were narrower than 
the engine and there would be just room for them to slip 

I went back again to Captain Haldane. He accepted the 
plan. He ordered his men to climb out of their steel pen and 
try to push it towards the engine. The plan was sound 
enough, but it broke down under the force of circumstances. 
The truck was so heavy that it required all hands to move 
it j the fire was so hot and the confusion so great and increas 
ing that the men drifted away from the exposed side. The 
enemy, relieved of our counter-fire, were now plainly visible 
in large numbers on the face of the hill, firing furiously. We 
then agreed that the engine should go slowly back along the 
line with all the wounded, who were now numerous, and 
that the Dublins and the Durban men should retreat on foot, 
sheltering themselves behind the engine which would go at 
a foot's pace. Upwards of forty persons, of whom the greater 
part were streaming with blood, were crowded on the en 
gine and its tender, and we began to move slowly forward. 
I was in the cab of the engine directing the engine-driver. It 
was crammed so full of wounded men that one could scarcely 
move. The shells burst all around, some striking the engine, 



others dashing the gravel of the track upon it and its un 
happy human freight. The pace increased, the infantry out 
side began to lag and then to be left behind. At last I forced 
the engine-driver to stop altogether, but before I could get 
the engine stopped we were already 300 yards away from 
our infantry. Close at hand was the bridge across the Blue 
Krantz River, a considerable span. I told the engine-driver 
to cross the bridge and wait on the other side, and forcing 
my way out of the cab I got down on to the line and went 
back along it to find Captain Haldane, and to bring him and 
his Dublin Fusiliers along. 

But while these events had been taking place everything 
else had been in movement. I had not retraced my steps 200 
yards when, instead of Haldane and his company, two fig 
ures in plain clothes appeared upon the line. Tlate-layersP 
I said to myself, and then with a surge of realization, 
'Boers P My mind retains its impression of these tall figures, 
full of energy, clad in dark, flapping clothes, with slouch, 
storm-driven hats, poising on their levelled rifles hardly a 
hundred yards away. I turned again and ran back towards 
the engine, the two Boers firing as I ran between the metals. 
Their bullets, sucking to right and left, seemed to miss only 
by inches. We were in a small cutting with banks about six 
feet high on either side. I flung myself against the bank of 
the cutting. It gave no cover. Another glance at the two fig 
ures $ one was now kneeling to aim. Movement seemed the 
only chance. Again I darted forward: again two soft kisses 
sucked in the air 5 but nothing struck me. This could not en 
dure. I must get out of the cutting that damnable corridor! 
I jigged to the left, and scrambled up the bank. The earth 
sprang up beside me. I got through the wire fence unhurt. 
Outside the cutting was a tiny depression. I crouched in this, 
struggling to get my breath again. 

Fifty yards away was a small plate-layer's cabin of ma 
sonry} there was cover there. About 200 yards away was the 
rocky gorge of the Blue Krantz River } there was plenty of 





A i 

I \ 


cover there. I determined to make a dash for the river. I rose 
to my feet. Suddenly on the other side of the railway, sepa 
rated from me by the rails and two uncut wire fences, I saw 
a horseman galloping furiously, a tall, dark figure, holding 
his rifle in his right hand. He pulled up his horse almost in 
its own length and shaking the rifle at me shouted a loud 
command. We were forty yards apart. That morning I had 
taken with me, Correspondent-status notwithstanding, my 
Mauser pistol, I thought I could kill this man, and after the 
treatment I had received I earnestly desired to do so. I put 
my hand to my belt, the pistol was not there. When engaged 
in clearing the line, getting in and out of the engine, etc., I 
had taken it off. It came safely home on the engine. I have 
it now! But at this moment I was quite unarmed. Mean 
while, I suppose in about the time this takes to tell, the Boer 
horseman, still seated on his horse, had covered me with his 
rifle. The animal stood stock still, so did he, and so did I. 
I looked towards the river, I looked towards the plate-layer's 
hut. The Boer continued to look along his sights. I thought 
there was absolutely no chance of escape, if he fired he 
would surely hit me, so I held up my hands and surrendered 
myself a prisoner of war. 

'When one is alone and unarmed,' said the great Napo 
leon, in words which flowed into my mind in the poignant 
minutes that followed, f a surrender may be pardoned.' Still 
he might have missed 5 and the Blue Krantz ravine was very 
near and the two wire fences were still uncut. However, the 
deed was done. Thereupon my captor lowered his rifle and 
beckoned to me to come across to him. I obeyed. I walked 
through the wire fences and across the line and stood by his 
side. He sprang off his horse and began firing in the direc 
tion of the bridge upon the retreating engine and a few 
straggling British figures. Then when the last had disap 
peared he remounted and at his side I tramped back towards 
the spot where I had left Captain Haldane and his company. 
I saw none of them. They were already prisoners. I noticed 



that it was raining hard. As I plodded through the high 
grass by the side of my captor a disquieting and timely re 
flection came into my mind. I had two clips of Mauser am 
munition, each holding ten rounds, in two little breast pockets 
one on each side of my khaki coat. These cartridges were 
the same as I had used at Omdurman, and were the only 
kind supplied for the Mauser pistol. They were what are 
called 'soft-nosed bullets.' I had never given them a thought 
until now; and it was borne in upon me that they might be 
a very dangerous possession. I dropped the right-hand clip 
on the ground without being seen. I had got the left-hand 
clip in my hand and was about to drop it, when my captor 
looked down sharply and said in English c What have you 
got there ?' 

'What is it?' I said, opening the palm of my hand, 'I 
picked it up.' 

He took it, 3 looked at it and threw it away. We continued 
to plod on until we reached the general gang of prisoners 
and found ourselves speedily in the midst of many hundreds 
of mounted Boers who streamed into view, in long columns 
of twos and threes, many holding umbrellas over their heads 
in the pouring rain. 

Such is the episode of the armoured train and the story of 
my capture on November 15, 1899. 

It was not until three years later, when the Boer Generals 
visited England to ask for some loan or assistance on behalf 
of their devastated country, that I was introduced at a pri 
vate luncheon to their leader, General Botha. We talked of 
the war and I briefly told the story of my capture. Botha 
listened in silence^ then he said, 'Don't you recognise me? 
I was that man. It was I who took you prisoner. I, myself,' 
and his bright eyes twinkled with pleasure. Botha in white 
shirt and frock coat looked very different in all save size and 
darkness of complexion from the wild war-time figure I had 



seen that rough day in Natal. But about the extraordinary 
fact there can be no doubt. He had entered upon the invasion 
of Natal as a burgher 5 his own disapproval of the war had 
excluded him from any high command at its outset. This 
was his first action. But as a simple private burgher serving 
in the ranks he had galloped on ahead and in front of the 
whole Boer forces in the ardour of pursuit. Thus we met. 

Few men that I have known have interested me more 
than Louis Botha. An acquaintance formed in strange cir 
cumstances and upon an almost unbelievable introduction 
ripened into a friendship which I greatly valued. I saw in 
this grand, rugged figure, the Father of his country, the 
wise and profound statesman, the farmer-warrior, the crafty 
hunter of the wilderness, the deep, sure man of solitude. 

In 1906 when, as newly-elected first Prime Minister of 
the Transvaal, he came to London to attend the Imperial 
Conference, a great banquet was given to the Dominion 
Prime Ministers in Westminster Hall. I was Under Secre 
tary of State for the Colonies, and as the Boer Leader, so 
recently our enemy, passed up the hall to his place, he paused 
to say to my mother, who stood by my side, 'He and I have 
been out in all weathers.' It was surely true. 

Space does not allow me here to recount the many im 
portant matters of public business in which I was, over a 
long period of years, brought in contact with this great man. 
To me it was that he first disclosed his romantic project of 
presenting the Cullinan Diamond of purest water and at 
least twenty times the size of any other to the King. It fell 
to my lot to expound the whole of the policy of giving self- 
government to the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and 
to conduct the Constitution Bills through the House of 
Commons. Afterwards at the Board of Trade and at the Ad 
miralty I was in frequent contact with General Botha and 
his colleague Smuts, while they ruled their country with 
such signal skill during the fifteen years from 1906 to the 
end of the Great War. 



Botha always felt he had a special call upon my attention. 
Whenever he visited Europe we saw each other many times, 
in council, at dinner, at home and in the public offices. His 
unerring instinct warned him of the approach of the great 
struggle. In 1913, when he returned from a visit to Ger 
many where he had been taking the waters for a cure, he 
warned me most earnestly of the dangerous mood prevail 
ing there. 'Mind you are ready,' he said. 'Do not trust those 
people. I know they are very dangerous. They mean you 
mischief. I hear things you would not hear. Mind you have 
all your ships ready. I can feel that there is danger in the 
air. And what is more,' he added, 'when the day comes I am 
going to be ready too. When they attack you, I am going to 
attack German South- West Africa and clear them out once 
and for all. I will be there to do my duty when the time 
comes. But you, with the Navy, mind you are not caught by 

Chance and romance continued to weave our fortunes to 
gether in a strange way. On the 28th or 29th of July, 1914, 
midway in the week of crisis which preceded the world ex 
plosion, I was walking away from the House of Commons 
after Question Time and met in Palace Yard one of the 
South African Ministers, Mr. de Graaf, a very able Dutch 
man whom I had known for a long time. 'What does it 
mean? What do you think is going to happen?' he asked. 'I 
think it will be war,' I replied, 'and I think Britain will be 
involved. Does Botha know how critical it is?' De Graaf 
went away looking very grave, and I thought no more of the 
incident; but it had its consequences. 

That night De Graaf telegraphed to Botha saying 
'Churchill thinks war certain and Great Britain involved' or 
words to that effect. Botha was away from the seat of gov 
ernment y he was in the northern Transvaal, and General 
Smuts was acting in his stead at Pretoria. The telegram was 
laid before Smuts. He looked at it, pushed it on one side, 
and continued working through his files of papers. Then 



when he had finished he looked at it again. 'There must be 
something in this/ he thought, 'or De Graaf would not have 
telegraphed 3 ' and he repeated the telegram to the absent 
Prime Minister in the northern Transvaal. It reached Gen 
eral Botha many hours later, but it reached him in time. 
That very night he was to start by train for Delagoa Bay, 
and the next morning he was to embark for his return jour 
ney to Cape Town on board a German sMp. But for this 
telegram, so he afterwards told me, he would have been 
actually at sea on a German vessel when war was declared. 
The Prime Minister, the all-powerful national leader of 
South Africa, would have been in the hands of the enemy 
at the very moment when large areas of the South African 
Union were trembling on the verge of rebellion. One cannot 
measure the evils which might have come upon South Africa 
had such a disaster taken place. Instantly on receiving the 
message General Botha cancelled all his plans and returned 
by special train to Pretoria, which he reached before the out 
break and in time. 

His grand exertions in the war, the risks he ran, the 
steadfast courage which he showed, the great command he 
exercised over his people, the brilliant manner in which he 
over-ran German South- West Africa, his rugged animated 
counsels at the meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet in 
1917, his statesmanship and noble bearing after the victory 
in the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919 all these are mat 
ters of history. 

I was Secretary of State for War when he quitted Eng 
land for the last time. He came to see me at the War Office 
to say good-bye. We talked long about the ups and downs of 
life and the tremendous and terrible events through which 
we had safely passed. Many high personages from many 
countries used in those days of victory to visit me at the War 
Office, but there- was only one whom I myself conducted 
down the great staircase and put with my own hands into 
his waiting car. I never saw him again. His death followed 



speedily on his return to his own country, of which in Peace 
and War, in Sorrow and in Triumph, in Rebellion and in 
Reconciliation, he had been a veritable saviour. 

This considerable digression will, I hope, be pardoned by 
the reader, and I make haste to return to the true path of 
chronology. As I sat drenched and miserable on the ground 
with the prisoners and some mortally-wounded men, I 
cursed, not only my luck, but my own decision. I could quite 
decently have gone off upon the engine. Indeed, I think, 
from what was said about the affair by the survivors, I might 
even have been extremely well received. I had needlessly 
and by many exertions involved myself in a useless and 
hopeless disaster. I had not helped anybody by attempting 
to return to the Company. I had only cut myself out of the 
whole of this exciting war with all its boundless possibilities 
of adventure and advancement. I meditated blankly upon 
the sour rewards of virtue. Yet this misfortune, could I have 
foreseen the future, was to lay the foundations of my later 
life. I was not to be done out of the campaign. I was not to 
languish as a prisoner. I was to escape, and by escaping was 
to gain a public reputation or notoriety which made me well- 
known henceforward among my countrymen, and made me 
acceptable as a candidate in a great many constituencies. I 
was also put in the position to earn the money which for 
many years assured my independence and the means of en 
tering Parliament. Whereas if I had gone back on the en 
gine, though I should perhaps have been praised and petted, 
I might well have been knocked on the head at Colenso a 
month later, as were several of my associates on Sir Redvers 
Buller's Staff. 

But these events and possibilities were hidden from me, 
and it was in dudgeon that I ranged myself in the line of 
prisoners before the swiftly-erected tent of the Boer head 
quarters. My gloomy reflections took a sharper and a darker 



turn when I found myself picked out from the other cap 
tive officers and ordered to stand by myself apart. I had 
enough military law to know that a civilian in a half uniform 
who has taken an active and prominent part in a fight, even 
if he has not fired a shot himself, is liable to be shot at once 
by drumhead court martial. None of the armies in the Great 
War would have wasted ten minutes upon the business. I 
therefore stood solitary in the downpour, a prey to gnawing 
anxiety. I occupied myself in thinking out what answers I 
should make to the various short, sharp questions which 
might soon be addressed to me, and what sort of appearance 
I could keep up if I were soon and suddenly told that my 
hour had come. After about a quarter of an hour of this I 
was much relieved when, as a result of deliberations which 
were taking place inside the tent, I was curtly told to rejoin 
the others. Indeed I felt quite joyful when a few minutes 
later a Boer field cornet came out of the tent and said, *We 
are not going to let you go, old chappie, although you are 
a correspondent. We don't catch the son of a lord every day.* 
I need really never have been alarmed. The Boers were 
the most humane people where white men were concerned. 
Kaffirs were a different story, but to the Boer mind the de 
struction of a white man's life, even in war, was a lamentable 
and shocking event. They were the most good-hearted en 
emy I have ever fought against in the four continents in 
which it has been my fortune to see active service. 

So it was settled that we were all to march off under 
escort sixty miles to the Boer railhead at Elandslaagte and 
to be sent to Pretoria as prisoners of war. 




PRISONER of War! That is the least unfortunate kind of 
prisoner to be, but it is nevertheless a melancholy state. 
You are in the power of your enemy. You owe your life to 
his humanity, and your daily bread to his compassion. You 
must obey his orders, go where he tells you, stay where you 
are bid, await his pleasure, possess your soul in patience. 
Meanwhile the war is going on, great events are in progress, 
fine opportunities for action and adventure are slipping 
away. Also the days are very long. Hours crawl like paralytic 
centipedes. Nothing amuses you. Reading is difficult, writ 
ing, impossible. Life is one long boredom from dawn till 

Moreover, the whole atmosphere of prison, even the most 
easy and best regulated prison, is odious. Companions in this 
kind of misfortune quarrel about trifles and get the least pos 
sible pleasure from each other's society. If you have never 
been under restraint before and never known what it was to 
be a captive, you feel a sense of constant humiliation in being 
confined to a narrow space, fenced in by railings and wire, 
watched by armed men, and webbed about with a tangle of 
regulations and restrictions. I certainly hated every minute 
of my captivity more than I have ever hated any other pe 
riod in my whole life. Luckily it was very short. Less than 
a month passed from the time when I yielded myself pris 
oner in Natal till I was at large again, hunted but free, in 
the vast sub-Continent of South Africa. Looking back on 
those days I have always felt the keenest pity for prisoners 
and captives. What it must mean for any man, especially an 



educated man, to be confined for years in a modern convict 
prison strains my imagination. Each day exactly like the one 
before, with the barren ashes of wasted life behind, and all 
the long years of bondage stretching out ahead. Therefore 
in after years, when I was Home Secretary and had all the 
prisons of England in my charge, I did my utmost consistent 
with public policy to introduce some sort of variety and in 
dulgence into the life of their inmates, to give to educated 
minds books to feed on, to give to all periodical entertain 
ments of some sort to look forward to and to look back upon, 
and to mitigate as far as is reasonable the hard lot which, if 
they have deserved, they must none the less endure. Al 
though I loathed the business of one human being inflicting 
frightful and even capital punishment upon others, I com 
forted myself on some occasions of responsibility by the re 
flection that a death sentence was far more merciful than a 
life sentence. 

Dark moods come easily across the mind of a prisoner. 
Of course if he is kept on very low diet, chained in a dun 
geon, deprived of light and plunged into solitude, his moods 
only matter to himself. But when you are young, well fed, 
high spirited, loosely guarded, able to conspire with others, 
these moods carry thought nearer to resolve, and resolve 
ever nearer to action. 

It took us three days' journey by march and train to reach 
our place of confinement at Pretoria from the front. We 
tramped round the Boer lines besieging Ladysmith in sound 
of the cannon, friendly and hostile, until we reached Eland- 
slaagte station. Here our little party Captain Haldane, a 
very young lieutenant of the Dublins named Frankland,* 
and myself with about fifty men, were put into the train, 
and we rumbled our way slowly for hundreds of miles into 
the heart of the enemy's country. We were joined at an early 
station by a trooper of the Imperial Light Horse who had 

*An officer of great personal charm and ability. He was killed, as a Colo 
nel, on the beaches of Gallipoli, April 25 v 1915. 

hTdfls prionter <! train bKncl6 d'Eatwurt (Urfl ChwcbiU & gauche 

ta Guerre Anjlo-Boer 

w <z contemporary Trench picture-postcard 



been captured that day when on patrol. This man, whose 
name was Brockie, was a South African Colonist. He passed 
himself off to the Boers as an officer, and as he spoke Dutch 
and Kaffir fluently and knew the country, we did not gain 
say him. We thought he was the very man for us. We all 
arrived at Pretoria on November i8, 1899. The men were 
taken off to their cage on the race-course, and we four of 
ficers were confined in the State Model Schools. Throughout 
our journey we had repeatedly discussed in undertones, and 
as occasion offered, plans for escape, and had resolved to 
try our utmost to regain our freedom. Curiously enough 
three out of our four at different times and in different cir 
cumstances made their escape from the State Model Schools 5 
and with one exception we were the only prisoners who ever 
succeeded in getting away from them. 

In the State Model Schools we found all the officers who 
had been taken prisoner in the early fighting of the war, and 
principally at Nicholson's Nek. We new arrivals were all 
lodged in the same dormitory, and explored our abode with 
the utmost care. We thought of nothing else but freedom, 
and from morn till night we racked our brains to discover 
a way of escape. We soon discovered the many defects in the 
system by which we were held in custody. We had so much 
liberty within our bounds, and were so free from observa 
tion during the greater part of the day and night, that we 
could pursue our aim unceasingly. We had not been there a 
week before our original impulse to escape became merged 
in a far more ambitious design. 1 

Gradually we evolved in deep consultation a scheme of 
desperate and magnificent audacity. It arose naturally from 
the facts of the case. We were ourselves in the State Model 
Schools about sixty officer prisoners of war, and we had about 
ten or eleven British soldier servants. Our guard consisted 
of about forty 'Zarps' (South African Republic Police). Of 
this guard ten were permanently on sentry-go on the four 

*See plan on page 269. 


sides of the enclosure in the centre of which the school build 
ing stood. By day another ten were usually off duty and out 
in the townj while the rest remained cleaning their equip 
ment, smoking, playing cards and resting in their guard tent. 
This guard tent was pitched in one corner of the quadrangu 
lar enclosure j and in it by night the whole thirty 'Zarps' not 
on duty slept the sleep of the just. 

If this guard could be overpowered and disarmed, a very 
important step would have been taken. It became extremely 
necessary at the outset to learn how they disposed themselves 
for the night, what they did with their rifles and revolvers, 
what proportion of them lay down in their accoutrements, 
fully armed or armed at least with their revolvers. Careful 
investigations were made both by day and by night. In the 
result it was ascertained that practically all the guard not 
required for duty rolled themselves up in their blankets and 
slept in two rows on either side of the marquee. Those who 
were not wanted for sentry-go that night took off their boots 
and most of their clothes. Even those who were expecting to 
relieve their comrades in an hour or two took off their tunics, 
their boots, and above all their belts. Their rifles and ban 
doliers were stacked and hung around the two tent-poles in 
improvised racks. There were therefore periods in the night, 
midway between the changes of the guard, when these thirty 
men, sleeping without any protection other than the tent 
wall, within fifty yards of sixty determined and athletic of 
ficers, were by no means so safe as they supposed. 

The entrance of the guard tent was watched by a sentry. 
Who shall say what is possible or impossible? In these spheres 
of action one cannot tell without a trial. It did not seem impos 
sible that this sentry might be engaged in conversation by a 
couple of officers on some story or other, either about some 
thing alarming that had happened or of someone who was 
suddenly ill, while at the same time two or three deter 
mined prisoners could enter the back of the guard tent by a 
slit in the canvas, possess themselves of pistols or rifles from 



the rack, and hold up the whole guard as they awoke from 
their slumbers. The armed sentry at the entrance would have 
to be seized in the moment of surprise. To master the guard 
without a shot being fired or an alarm given was a problem 
of extreme difficulty and hazard. All one could say about 
such an enterprise was that the history of war and I must 
add, crime contains many equally unexpected and auda 
cious strokes. If this were achieved, it would only be the first 

The ten armed sentries on duty were the second step. 
This phase was complicated by the fact that three of these 
men were posted outside the spiked railing of the enclosure. 
They were only a yard away from it, and would often stand 
leaning against it by day, chatting. But at night no such oc 
casion would arise, and they were therefore ungetatable and 
outside the lions' den. All the rest were inside. Each of these 
ten men (three outside and seven in) was a proposition re 
quiring a special study. 

It did not follow that the enterprise would be wrecked 
if one or two of them got off and gave the alarm. Once the 
guard were overpowered and their rifles and pistols dis 
tributed, we should have become an armed force superior in 
numbers and we believed superior also in discipline and 
intelligence to any organized body of Boers who could or 
would be brought against us for at least half an hour. Much 
may happen in half an hour! It seemed obvious that about 
two o'clock in the morning, half-way through the middle 
watch, was the most favourable moment. If every British 
officer did exactly what he ought to do at the right moment, 
and if nothing miscarried, it seemed fair to hope that, mak 
ing reasonable allowance for slips in minor matters, we might 
be masters of the State Model Schools. 

The whole enclosure was brightly and even brilliantly 
lighted by electric lights on tall standards. But the wires on 
which these lights depended were discovered by us to pass 
through the dormitories we occupied in the State Model 



School building. One of our number versed in such matters 
declared his ability to disconnect them at any moment and 
plunge the whole place in pitch darkness 5 and this in fact 
was momentarily done one might as an experiment. If this 
could be effected say a minute after the hold-up in the guard 
tent was signalled, the seizure of the sentries on duty, ut 
terly bewildered at what was taking place, might not be so 
difficult as it seemed. Lastly, the gymnasium of the State 
Model Schools contained a good supply of dumb-bells. Who 
shall say that three men in the dark, armed with dumb 
bells, desperate and knowing what they meant to do, are not 
a match for one man who, even though he is armed, is un 
suspecting and ignorant of what is taking place? If once we 
could surprise the guard and overcome and disarm the ma 
jority of the sentries, if once we could have thirty officers 
armed with revolvers and thirty more armed with rifles in 
the heart of Pretoria, the enemy's capital, the first and by 
far the hardest phase in a great and romantic enterprise 
would have been achieved. What next? 

A mile and a half away from the State Model Schools was 
the Pretoria race-course, and in this barbed wire enclosure 
upwards of two thousand British prisoners soldiers and 
non-commissioned officers were confined. We were in touch 
with these men and would be able to concert plans with 
them. Our channel of communication was a simple one. 
Some of the ten or eleven servants assigned to the officers 
in the State Model Schools from time to time gave cause for 
dissatisfaction, and were sent back to the race-course and 
replaced by others. Thus we knew regularly the feelings of 
these two thousand British soldiers and the conditions under 
which they were confined. We learned that they were ex 
tremely discontented. Their life was monotonous, their ra 
tions short, their accommodation poor. They were hungry 
and resentful. On one occasion they had surged up towards 
the guard at the entrance, and although no bloodshed had 
taken place, we knew that the Boers had been much exercised 



by the problem of keeping so many men in check. Our in 
formation told us that there were only about one hundred 
and twenty 'Zarps' with two machine-guns in charge of this 
large prisoners' cage. Such a force, if fully prepared, could 
no doubt have quenched any mutiny in blood. But suppose 
at the moment when the prisoners rose, the race-course guard 
was attacked from behind by sixty armed officers! Suppose 
the machine-guns were rushed from the rear! Suppose the 
whole two thousand, acting on a definite plan, attacked from 
the front! Who shall say that in the confusion and the night 
numbers and design would not have prevailed? If this were 
so, the second phase of the enterprise would in its turn have 
attained success. What then? 

In the whole of Pretoria there were not five hundred men 
capable of bearing arms 5 and these for the most part were 
well-to-do burghers who had obtained exemption from the 
front, men unfit to go on commando, officials of the Gov 
ernment, clerks in the Government offices, etc. These were 
nominally formed into a town guard and had had rifles 
served out to them. Beyond this, organisation did not run. 
If the first step could have been taken, the second would 
have been far easier, and the third easier still. In imagina 
tion we saw ourselves masters of the enemy's capital. The 
forts were held only by caretakers. Everyone else was at the 
front. The guns of the forts all faced outwards. They were 
not defended in any effectual way from an attack from the 
rear. Had we been successful in obtaining control of the 
town, the occupation of the forts would have been easy, 
would have followed in fact as a natural consequence. The 
nearest British army was three hundred miles away. But if 
all had gone well, we should by a wave of the wand have 
been in possession of the enemy's fortified capital, with an 
adequate force and plenty of food and ammunition for a 
defence at least as long as that of Mafeking. 

The whole of this would have taken place between dusk 
and dawn. How long should we have had before we were 



attacked? We thought that several days might certainly be 
secured. We should hold the central railway junction of the 
South African Republic. Here the railways north, east, and 
south were joined together. We could send a train down 
each of these lines as far as was prudent perhaps forty or 
fifty miles, perhaps more and then come back blowing up 
every bridge and culvert behind us. In the time thus gained 
the defence of the town could be effectually organised. Sup 
pose this thing happened! Suppose the Boer armies woke up 
to find their capital was in the hands of the masses of pris 
oners of war whom they had so incautiously accumulated 
there without an adequate garrison! How many men would 
they have to detach to besiege it? The kind of fighting in 
which the Boers excelled required the open country. They 
never succeeded during the whole war in reducing any strong 
places. Kimberley, Mafeking, Ladysmith are examples. 
Wherever they came up against trenches and fixed positions, 
they had recoiled. The theatre in which they were so formi 
dable was the illimitable veldt. If we got Pretoria we could 
hold it for months. And what a feat of arms! President 
Kruger and his Government would be prisoners in our hands. 
He had talked of 'staggering humanity.' But here indeed 
was something to stagger him. 

Perhaps with these cards in our hands we could negotiate 
an honourable peace, and end the struggle by a friendly and 
fair arrangement which would save the armies marching and 
fighting. It was a great dream. It occupied our thoughts for 
many days. Some ardent spirits went so far as to stitch to 
gether a Union Jack for use 'on the day. 5 But all remained 
a dream. The two or three senior officers who were prisoners 
with us, on being apprised of our plans, pronounced de 
cidedly against them 5 and I shall certainly not claim that 
they were wrong. One is reminded of the comic opera. The 
villain impressively announces: 'Twelve thousand armed 
muleteers are ready to sack the town.' 'Why don't they do 
it?' he is asked. 'The Police won't let them.' Yes, there was 



the rub. Ten men awake and armed may be a small obstacle 
to a great scheme, but in this case, as in so many others, they 
were decisive. We abandoned our collective designs and con 
centrated upon individual plans of escape. 



DURING the first three weeks of my captivity, although 
I was a party to all plans of revolt or escape, I was en 
gaged in arguing with the Boer Authorities that they should 
release me as a Press Correspondent. They replied that I 
had forfeited my non-combatant status by the part I had 
taken in the armoured train fight. I contended that I had not 
fired a shot and had been taken unarmed. This was strictly 
true. But the Natal newspapers had been captured by the 
Boers. These contained glowing accounts of my activities, 
and attributed the escape of the engine and the wounded 
entirely to me. General Joubert therefore intimated that 
even if I had not fired a shot myself, I had injured the 
Boer operations by freeing the engine, and that I must there 
fore be treated as a prisoner-of-war. As soon as I learned 
of this decision, in the first week of December, I resolved to 

I shall transcribe what I wrote at the time where I cannot 
improve upon it. 

'The State Model Schools stood in the midst of a quad 
rangle, and were surrounded on two sides by an iron grille 
and on two by a corrugated-iron fence about ten feet high. 
These boundaries offered little obstacle to anyone who pos 
sessed the activity of youth, but the fact that they were 
guarded on the inside by sentries, fifty yards apart, armed 
with rifle and revolver, made them a well-nigh insuperable 
barrier. No walls are so hard to pierce as living walls. 

c After anxious reflection and continual watching, it was 
discovered by several of the prisoners that when the sentries 
along the eastern side walked about on their beats they were 
at certain moments unable to see the top of a few yards of 
the wall near the small circular lavatory office which can be 



seen on the plan. The electric lights in the middle of the 
quadrangle brilliantly lighted the whole place, but the east 
ern wall was in shadow. The first thing was therefore to pass 
the two sentries near the office. It was necessary to hit off the 
exact moment when both their backs should be turned to 
gether. After the wall was scaled we should be in the garden 
of the villa next door. There the plan came to an end. 
Everything after this was vague and uncertain. How to get 
out of the garden, how to pass unnoticed through the streets, 
how to evade the patrols that surrounded the town, and 
above all how to cover the two hundred and eighty miles to 
the Portuguese frontier, were questions which would arise 
at a later stage.' 

'Together with Captain Haldane and Lieutenant Brockie 
I made an abortive attempt, not pushed with any decision, 
on December n. There was no difficulty in getting into the 
circular office. But to climb out of it over the wall was a 
hazard of the sharpest character. Anyone doing so must at 
the moment he was on the top of the wall be plainly visible 
to the sentries fifteen yards away, if they were in the right 
place and happened to look! Whether the sentries would 
challenge or fire depended entirely upon their individual 
dispositions, and no one could tell what they would do. Nev 
ertheless I was determined that nothing should stop my 
taking the plunge the next day. As the I2th wore away my 
fears crystallized more and more into desperation. In the 
evening, after my two friends had made an attempt, but had 
not found the moment propitious, I strolled across the quad 
rangle and secreted myself in the circular office. Through an 
aperture in the metal casing of which it was built I watched 
the sentries. For some time they remained stolid and obstruc 
tive. Then all of a sudden one turned and walked up to his 
comrade, and they began to talk. Their backs were turned.' 

'Now or never! I stood on a ledge, seized the top of the 
wall with my hands, and drew myself up. Twice I let myself 



down again in sickly hesitation, and then with a third resolve 
scrambled up and over. My waistcoat got entangled with the 
ornamental metal-work on the top. I had to pause for an ap 
preciable moment to extricate myself. In this posture I had 
one parting glimpse of the sentries still talking with their 
backs turned fifteen yards away. One of them was lighting his 
cigarette, and I remember the glow on the inside of his hands 
as a distinct impression which my mind recorded. Then I 
lowered myself lightly down into the adjoining garden and 
crouched among the shrubs. I was free! The first step had 
been taken, and it was irrevocable. It now remained to await 
the arrival of my comrades. The bushes in the garden gave a 
good deal of cover, and in the moonlight their shadows fell 
dark on the ground. I lay here for an hour in great impatience 
and anxiety. People were continually moving about in the 
garden, and once a man came and apparently looked straight 
at me only a few yards away. Where were the others? Why 
did they not make the attempt?' 

'Suddenly I heard a voice from within the quadrangle say, 
quite loud, "All up." I crawled back to the wall. Two officers 
were walking up and down inside, jabbering Latin words, 
laughing and talking all manner of nonsense amid which I 
caught my name. I risked a cough. One of the officers im 
mediately began to chatter alone. The other said, slowly and 
clearly, "They cannot get out. The sentry suspects. It's all up. 
Can you get back again ?" But now all my fears fell from me 
at once. To go back was impossible. I could not hope to climb 
the wall unnoticed. There was no helpful ledge on the out 
side. Fate pointed onwards. Besides, I said to myself, "Of 
course, I shall be recaptured, but I will at least have a run for 
my money." I said to the officers, "I shall go on alone." 

c Now I was in the right mood for these undertakings 
failure being almost certain, no odds against success affected 
me. All risks were less than the certainty. A glance at the plan 
will show that the gate which led into the road was only a few 



yards from another sentry. I said to myself, " Tou jours de 
Vaudace" put my hat on my head, strode into the middle of 
the garden, walked past the windows of the house without any 
attempt at concealment, and so went through the gate and 
turned to the left. I passed the sentry at less than five yards. 
Most of them knew me by sight. Whether he looked at me or 
not I do not know, for I never turned my head. I restrained 
with the utmost difficulty an impulse to run. But after walk 
ing a hundred yards and hearing no challenge, I knew that 
the second obstacle had been surmounted. I was at large in 

C I walked on leisurely through the night, humming a tune 
and choosing the middle of the road. The streets were full 
of burghers, but they paid no attention to me. Gradually I 
reached the suburbs, and on a little bridge I sat down to re 
flect and consider. I was in the heart of the enemy's country. 
I knew no one to whom I could apply for succour. Nearly 
three hundred miles stretched between me and Delagoa Bay. 
My escape must be known at dawn. Pursuit would be immedi 
ate. Yet all exits were barred. The town was picketed, the 
country was patrolled, the trains were searched, the line was 
guarded. I wore a civilian brown flannel suit. I had seventy- 
five pounds in my pocket and four slabs of chocolate, but the 
compass and the map which might have guided me, the opium 
tablets and meat lozenges which should have sustained me, 
were in my friends' pockets in the State Model Schools. Worst 
of all, I could not speak a word of Dutch or Kaffir, and how 
was I to get food or direction? 

c But when hope had departed, fear had gone as well. I 
formed a plan. I would find the Delagoa Bay Railway. With 
out map or compass, I must follow that in spite of the pickets. 
I looked at the stars. Orion shone brightly. Scarcely a year 
before lie had guided me when lost in the desert to the banks 
of the Nile. He had given me water. Now he should lead to 
freedom. I could not endure the want of either. 

c Af ter wzOking south for half a mile I struck the railroad 



Was it the line to Delagoa Bay or the Pietersburg branch? If 
it were the former, it should run east. But, so far as I could 
see, this line ran northwards. Still, it might be only winding 
its way out among the hills. I resolved to follow it. The night 
was delicious. A cool breeze fanned my face, and a wild feel 
ing of exhilaration took hold of me. At any rate, I was free, 
if only for an hour. That was something. The fascination of 
the adventure grew. Unless the stars in their courses fought 
for me, I could not escape. Where, then, was the need of cau 
tion? I marched briskly along the line. Here and there the 
lights of a picket fire gleamed. Every bridge had its watchers. 
But I passed them all, making very short detours at the dan 
gerous places, and really taking scarcely any precautions. Per 
haps that was the reason I succeeded. 

*As I walked I extended my plan. I could not march three 
hundred miles to the frontier. I would board a train in motion 
and hide under the seats, on the roof, on the couplings any 
where. I thought of Paul Bultitude's escape from school in 
Vice Versa. I saw myself emerging from under the seat, and 
bribing or persuading some' fat first-class passenger to help me. 
What train should I take? The first, of course. After walking 
for two hours I perceived the signal lights of a station. I left 
the line, and circling round it, hid in the ditch by the track 
about two hundred yards beyond the platform. I argued that 
the train would stop at the station and that it would not have 
got up too much speed by the time it reached me. An hour 
passed. I began to grow impatient. Suddenly I heard the whis 
tle and the approaching rattle. Then the great yellow head 
lights of the engine flashed into view. The train waited five 
minutes at the station, and started again with much noise and 
steaming. I crouched by the track. I rehearsed the act in my 
mind. I must wait until the engine had passed, otherwise I 
should be seen. Then I must make a dash for the carriages. 

'The train started slowly, but gathered speed sooner than 
I- had expected. The flaring lights drew swiftly near. The 
rattle became a roar. The dark mass hung for a second above 



me. The engine-driver silhouetted against his furnace glow, 
the black profile of the engine, the clouds of steam rushed 
past. Then I hurled myself on the trucks, clutched at some 
thing, missed, clutched again, missed again, grasped some sort 
of hand-hold, was swung off my feet my toes bumping on 
the line, and with a struggle seated myself on the couplings 
of the fifth truck from the front of the train. It was a goods 
train, and the trucks were full of sacks, soft sacks covered with 
coal-dust. They were in fact bags filled with empty coal bags 
going back to their colliery. I crawled on top and burrowed in 
among them. In five minutes I was completely buried. The 
sacks were warm and comfortable. Perhaps the engine-driver 
had seen me rush up to the train and would give the alarm at 
the next station 5 on the other hand, perhaps not. Where was 
the train going to? Where would it be unloaded? Would it be 
searched? Was it on the Delagoa Bay line? What should I do 
in the morning? Ah, never mind that. Sufficient for the night 
was the luck thereof. Fresh plans for fresh contingencies. I 
resolved to sleep, nor can I imagine a more pleasing lullaby 
than the clatter of the train that carries an escaping prisoner 
at twenty miles an hour away from the enemy's capital. 

'How long I slept I do not know, but I woke up suddenly 
with all feelings of exhilaration gone, and only the conscious 
ness of oppressive difficulties heavy on me. I must leave the 
train before daybreak, so that I could drink at a pool and find 
some hiding-place while it was still dark. I would not run 
the risk of being unloaded with the coal bags. Another night 
I would board another train. I crawled from my cosy hiding- 
place among the sacks and sat again on the couplings. The 
train was running at a fair speed, but I felt it was time to 
leave it I took hold of the iron handle at the back of the 
truck, pulled strongly with my left hand, and sprang. My 
feet struck the ground in two gigantic strides, and the next 
instant I was sprawling in the ditch considerably shaken but 
unhurt. The train, my faithful ally of the night, hurried on 
its journey. 



<It was still dark. I was in the middle of a wide valley, 
surrounded by low hills, and carpeted with high grass 
drenched in dew. I searched for water in the nearest gully, 
and soon found a clear pool. I was very thirsty, but long 
after I had quenched my thirst I continued to drink, that I 
might have sufficient for the whole day. 

'Presently the dawn began to break, and the sky to the 
east grew yellow and red, slashed across with heavy black 
clouds. I saw with relief that the railway ran steadily to 
wards the sunrise. I had taken the right line, after all. 

'Having drunk my fill, I set out for the hills, among which 
I hoped to find some hiding-place, and as it became broad 
daylight I entered a small grove of trees which grew on the 
side of a deep ravine. Here I resolved to wait till dusk. I 
had one consolation: no one in the world knew where I was 
I did not know myself. It was now four o'clock. Fourteen 
hours lay between me and the night. My impatience to pro 
ceed while I was still strong doubled their length. At first 
it was terribly cold, but by degrees the sun gained power, 
and by ten o'clock the heat was oppressive. My sole com 
panion was a gigantic vulture, who manifested an extrava 
gant interest in my condition, and made hideous and omin 
ous gurglings from time to time. From my lofty position I 
commanded a view of the whole valley. A little tin-roofed 
town lay three miles to the westward. Scattered farmsteads, 
each with a dump of trees, relieved the monotony of the 
undulating ground. At the foot of the hill stood a Kaffir 
kraal, and the figures of its inhabitants dotted the patches of 
cultivation or surrounded the droves of goats and cows which 
fed on the pasture. . . . During the day I ate one slab of 
chocolate, which, with the heat, produced a violent thirst. 
The pool was hardly half a mile away, but I dared not leave 
the shelter of the little wood, for I could see the figures of 
white men riding or walking occasionally across the valley, 
and once a Boer came and fired two shots at birds close to 
my hiding-place. But no one discovered me. 



'The elation and the excitement of the previous night had 
burnt away, and a chilling reaction followed. I was very 
hungry, for I had had no dinner before starting, and choco 
late, though it sustains, does not satisfy. I had scarcely slept, 
but yet my heart beat so fiercely and I was so nervous and 
perplexed about the future that I could not rest. I thought 
of all the chances that lay against me; I dreaded and de 
tested more than words can express the prospect of being 
caught and dragged back to Pretoria. I found no comfort in 
any of the philosophical ideas which some men parade in 
their hours of ease and strength and safety. They seemed 
only fair-weather friends. I realised with awful force that no 
exercise of my own feeble wit and strength could save me 
from my enemies, and that without the assistance of that 
High Power which interferes in the eternal sequence of 
causes and effects more often than we are always prone to 
admit, I could never succeed. I prayed long and earnestly 
for help and guidance. My prayer, as it seems to me, was 
swiftly and wonderfully answered.' 

I wrote these lines many years ago while the impression 
of the adventure was strong upon me. Then I could tell no 
more. To have done so would have compromised the liberty 
and perhaps the lives of those who had helped me. For many 
years these reasons have disappeared. The time has come 
when I can relate the events which followed, and which 
changed my nearly hopeless position into one of superior ad 

During the day I had watched the railway with attention. 
I saw two or three trains pass along it each way. I argued 
that the same number would pass at night. I resolved to 
board one of these. I thought I could improve on my pro 
cedure of the previous evening. I had observed how slowly 
the trains, particularly long goods-trains, climbed some of 
the steep gradients. Sometimes they were hardly going at a 
foot's pace. It would probably be easy to choose a point where 



the line was not only on an up grade but also on a curve. 
Thus I could board some truck on the convex side of the 
train when both the engine and the guard's van were bent 
away, and when consequently neither the engine-driver nor 
the guard would see me. This plan seemed to me in every 
respect sound. I saw myself leaving the train again before 
dawn, having been carried forward another sixty or seventy 
miles during the night. That would be scarcely one hundred 
and fifty miles from the frontier. And why should not the 
process be repeated? Where was the flaw? I could not see it. 
With three long bounds on three successive nights I could 
be in Portuguese territory. Meanwhile I still had two or 
three slabs of chocolate and a pocketful of crumbled biscuit 
enough, that is to say, to keep body and soul together at 
a pinch without running the awful risk of recapture entailed 
by accosting a single human being. In this mood I watched 
with increasing impatience the arrival of darkness. 

The long day reached its close at last. The western clouds 
flushed into fire 5 the shadows of the hills stretched out across 
the valley 5 a ponderous Boer wagon with its long team 
crawled slowly along the track towards the township j the 
Kaffirs collected their herds and drew them round their 
kraal 5 the daylight died, and soon it was quite dark. Then, 
and not until then, I set forth. I hurried to the railway line, 
scrambling along through the boulders and high grass and 
pausing on my way to drink at a stream of sweet cold water. 
I made my way to the place where I had seen the trains 
crawling so slowly up the slope, and soon found a point 
where the curve of the track fulfilled all the conditions of 
my plan. Here, behind a little bush, I sat down and waited 
hopefully. An hour passed} two hours passed} three hours 
and yet no train. Six hours had now elapsed since the last, 
whose time I had carefully noted, had gone by. Surely one 
was due. Another hour slipped away. Still no train! My plan 
began to crumble and my hopes to ooze out of me. After all, 
was it not quite possible that no trains ran on this part of the 



line during the dark hours? This was in fact the case, and I 
might well have continued to wait in vain till daylight. How 
ever, between twelve and one in the morning I lost patience 
and started along the track, resolved to cover at any rate ten 
or fifteen miles of my journey. I did not make much prog 
ress. Every bridge was guarded by armed men 5 every few 
miles were huts. At intervals there were stations with tin- 
roofed villages clustering around them. All the veldt was 
bathed in the bright rays of the full moon, and to avoid 
these dangerous places I had to make wide circuits and even 
to creep along the ground. Leaving the railroad I fell into 
bogs and swamps, brushed through high grass dripping with 
dew, and waded across the streams over which the bridges 
carried the railway. I was soon drenched to the waist. I had 
been able to take very little exercise during my month's im 
prisonment, and I was quickly tired with walking and with 
want of food and sleep. Presently I approached a station. It 
was a mere platform in the veldt, with two or three build 
ings and huts around it. But laid up on the sidings, obviously 
for the night, were three long goods-trains. Evidently the 
flow of traffic over the railway was uneven. These three 
trains, motionless in the moonlight, confirmed my fears that 
traffic was not maintained by night on this part of the line. 
Where, then, was my plan which in the afternoon had looked 
so fine and sure? 

It now occurred to me that I might board one of these 
stationary trains immediately, and hiding amid its freight 
be carried forward during the next day and night too if all 
were well. On the other hand, where were they going to? 
Where would they stop? Where would they be unloaded? 
Once I entered a wagon my lot would be cast. I might find 
myself ignominiously unloaded and recaptured at Witbank 
or Middleburg, or at any station in the long two hundred 
miles which separated me from the frontier. It was necessary 
at all costs before taking such a step to find out where these 
trains were going. To do this I must penetrate the station, 



examine the labels on the trucks or on the merchandise, and 
see if I could extract any certain guidance from them. I crept 
up to the platform and got between two of the long trains 
on the siding. I was proceeding to examine the markings on 
the trucks when loud voices rapidly approaching on the out 
side of the trains filled me with fear. Several Kaffirs were 
laughing and shouting in their unmodulated tones, and I 
heard, as I thought, a European voice arguing or ordering. 
At any rate, it was enough for me. I retreated between the 
two trains to the extreme end of the siding, and slipped 
stealthily but rapidly into the grass of the illimitable plain. 

There was nothing for it but to plod on but in an in 
creasingly purposeless and hopeless manner. I felt very mis 
erable when I looked around and saw here and there the 
lights of houses and thought of the warmth and comfort 
within them, but knew that they meant only danger to me. 
Far off on the moonlit horizon there presently began to 
shine the row of six or eight big lights which marked either 
Witbank or Middleburg station. Out in the darkness to my 
left gleamed two or three fires. I was sure they were not the 
lights of houses, but how far off they were or what they 
were I could not be certain. The idea formed in my mind 
that they were the fires of a Kaffir kraal. Then I began to 
think that the best use I could make of my remaining 
strength would be to go to these Kaffirs. I had heard that 
they hated the Boers and were friendly to the British. At 
any rate, they would probably not arrest me. They might 
give me food and a dry corner to sleep in. Although I could 
not speak a word of their language, yet I thought perhaps 
they might understand the value of a British bank-note. 
They might even be induced to help me. A guide, a pony 
but, above all, rest, warmth, and food such were the 
promptings which dominated my mind. So I set out towards 
the fires. 

I must have walked a mile or so in this resolve before a 
realisation of its weakness and imprudence took possession of 



me. Then I turned back again to the railway line and re 
traced my steps perhaps half the distance. Then I stopped 
and sat down, completely baffled, destitute of any idea what 
to do or where to turn. Suddenly without the slightest rea 
son all my doubts disappeared. It was certainly by no process 
of logic that they were dispelled. I just felt quite clear that 
I would go to the Kaffir kraal. I had sometimes in former 
years held a Tlanchette' pencil and written while others had 
touched my wrist or hand. I acted in exactly the same un 
conscious or subconscious manner now. 

I walked on rapidly towards the fires, which I had in the 
first instance thought were not more than a couple of miles 
from the railway line. I soon found they were much farther 
away than that. After about an hour or an hour and a half 
they still seemed almost as far off as ever. But I persevered, 
and presently between two and three o'clock in the morning 
I perceived that they were not the fires of a Kaffir kraal. The 
angular outline of buildings began to draw out against them, 
and soon I saw that I was approaching a group of houses 
around the mouth of a coal-mine. The wheel which worked 
the winding gear was plainly visible, and I could see that the 
fires which had led me so far were from the furnaces of the 
engines. Hard by, surrounded by one or two slighter struc 
tures, stood a small but substantial stone house two storeys 

I halted in the wilderness to survey this scene and to re 
volve my action. It was still possible to turn back. But in 
that direction I saw nothing but the prospect of further futile 
wanderings terminated by hunger, fever, discovery, or sur 
render. On the other hand, here in front was a chance. I had 
heard it said before I escaped that in the mining district of 
Witbank and Middleburg there were a certain number of 
English residents who had been suffered to remain in the 
country in order to keep the mines working. Had I been led 
to one of these? What did this house which frowned dark 
and inscrutable upon me contain? A Briton or a Boerj a 



friend or a foe? Nor did this exhaust the possibilities. I had 
my seventy-five pounds in English notes in my pocket. If I 
revealed my identity, I thought that I could give reasonable 
assurance of a thousand. I might find some indifferent neu 
tral-minded person who out of good nature or for a large 
sum of money would aid me in my bitter and desperate 
need. Certainly I would try to make what bargain I could 
now now while I still had the strength to plead my cause 
and perhaps to extricate myself if the results were adverse. 
Still the odds were heavy against me, and it was with falter 
ing and reluctant steps that I walked out of the shimmering 
gloom of the veldt into the light of the furnace fires, ad 
vanced towards the silent house, and struck with my fist upon 
the door. 

There was a pause. Then I knocked again. And almost 
immediately a light sprang up above and an upper window 

c Wer ist da? y cried a man's voice. 

I felt the shock of disappointment and consternation to 
my fingers. 

*I want helpj I have had an accident,' I replied. 

Some muttering followed. Then I heard steps descending 
the stairs, the bolt of the door was drawn, the lock was 
turned. It was opened abruptly, and in the darkness of the 
passage a tall man hastily attired, with a pale face and dark 
moustache, stood before me. 

'What do you want?' he said, this time in English. 

I had now to think of something to say. I wanted above 
all to get into parley with this man, to get matters in such a 
state that instead of raising an alarm and summoning others 
he would discuss things quietly. 

'I am a burgher,' I began. C I have had an accident. I was 
going to join my commando at Komati Poort. I have fallen 
off the train. We were skylarking. I have been unconscious 
for hours. I think I have dislocated my shoulder.' 

It is astonishing how one thinks of these things. This 



story leapt out as if I had learnt it by heart. Yet I had not 
the slightest idea what I was going to say or what the next 
sentence would be. 

The stranger regarded me intently, and after some hesi 
tation said at length, 'Well, come in.' He retreated a little 
into the darkness of the passage, threw open a door on one 
side of it, and pointed with his left hand into a dark room. 
I walked past him and entered, wondering if it was to be 
my prison. He followed, struck a light, lit a lamp, and set 
it on the table at the far side of which I stood. I was in a 
small room, evidently a dining-room and office in one. I 
noticed besides the large table, a roll desk, two or three chairs, 
and one of those machines for making soda-water, consisting 
of two glass globes set one above the other and encased in 
thin wire-netting. On his end of the table my host had laid 
a revolver, which he had hitherto presumably been holding 
in his right hand. 

C I think I'd like to know a little more about this railway 
accident of yours,' he said, after a considerable pause. 

'I think,' I replied, C I had better tell you the truth.' 

'I think you had,' he said, slowly. 

So I took the plunge and threw all I had upon the board. 

C I am Winston Churchill, War Correspondent of the 
Morning Post. I escaped last night from Pretoria. I am mak 
ing my way to the frontier.' (Making my way! ) C I have 
plenty of money. Will you help me?' 

There was another long pause. My companion rose from 
the table slowly and locked the door. After this act, which 
struck me as unpromising, and was certainly ambiguous, he 
advanced upon me and suddenly held out his hand. 

c Thank God you have come here! It is the only house for 
twenty miles where you would not have been handed over. 
But we are all British here, and we will see you through.' 

It is easier to recall across the gulf of years the spasm of 
relief which swept over me, than it is to describe it. A mo 
ment before I had thought myself trapped ; and now friends, 



food, resources, aid were all at my disposal. I felt like a 
drowning man pulled out of the water and informed he has 
won the Derby! 

My host now introduced himself as Mr. John Howard, 
manager of the Transvaal Collieries. He had become a natu 
ralised burgher of the Transvaal some years before the war. 
But out of consideration for his British race and some in 
ducements which he had offered to the local Field Cornet, 
he had not been called up to fight against the British. In 
stead he had been allowed to remain with one or two others 
on the mine, keeping it pumped out and in good order until 
coal-cutting could be resumed. He had with him at the mine- 
head, besides his secretary, who was British, an engine-man 
from Lancashire and two Scottish miners. All these four 
were British subjects and had been allowed to remain only 
upon giving their parole to observe strict neutrality. He him 
self as burgher of the Transvaal Republic would be guilty 
of treason in harbouring me, and liable to be shot if caught 
at the time or found out later on. 

'Never mind,' he said, c we will fix it up somehow.' And 
added, c The Field Cornet was round here this afternoon 
asking about you. They have got the hue and cry out all 
along the line and all over the district.' 

I said that I did not wish to compromise him. 

Let him give me food, a pistol, a guide, and if possible 
a pony, and I would make my own way to the sea, marching 
by night across country far away from the railway line or 
any habitation. 

He would not hear of it. He would fix up something. But 
he enjoined the utmost caution. Spies were everywhere. He 
had two Dutch servant-maids actually sleeping in the house. 
There were many Kaffirs employed about the mine premises 
and on the pumping-machinery of the mine. Surveying these 
dangers he became very thoughtful. 

Then: 'But you are famishing. 3 

I did not contradict him. In a moment he had bustled off 



into the kitchen, telling me meanwhile to help myself from 
a whisky bottle and the soda-water machine which I have 
already mentioned* He returned after an interval with the 
best part of a cold leg of mutton and various other delecta 
ble commodities, and, leaving me to do full justice to these, 
quitted the room and let himself out of the house by a back 

Nearly an hour passed before Mr. Howard returned. In 
this period my physical well-being had been brought into 
harmony with the improvement in my prospects. I felt con 
fident of success and equal to anything. 

'It's all right,' said Mr. Howard. 'I have seen the men, 
and they are all for it. We must put you down the pit to 
night, and there you will have to stay till we can see how to 
get you out of the country. One difficulty,' he said, 'will be 
the skoff (food). The Dutch girl sees every mouthful I eat. 
The cook will want to know what has happened to her leg 
of mutton. I shall have to think it all out during the night. 
You must get down the pit at once. We'll make you com 
fortable enough/ 

Accordingly, just as the dawn was, breaking, I followed 
my host across a little yard into the enclosure in which stood 
the winding-wheel of the mine. Here a stout man, intro 
duced as Mr. Dewsnap, of Oldham, locked my hand in a 
grip of crushing vigour. 

'They'll all vote for you next time,' he whispered. 

A door was opened and I entered the cage. Down we shot 
into the bowels of the earth. At the bottom of the mine were 
the two Scottish miners with lanterns and a big bundle which 
afterwards proved to be a mattress and blankets. We walked 
for some time through the pitchy labyrinth, with frequent 
turns, twists, and alterations of level, and finally stopped in 
a sort of chamber where the air was cool and fresh. Here 
iny guide set down his bundle, and Mr. Howard handed me 
a couple of candles, a bottle of whisky, and a box of cigars. 

'There's no difficulty about these,' he said. 'I keep them 



under lock and key. Now we must plan how to feed you to 


'Don't you move from here, whatever happens/ was the 
parting injunction. 'There will be Kaffirs about the mine 
after daylight, but we shall be on the look-out that none of 
them wanders this way. None of them has seen anything so 

My four friends trooped off with their lanterns, and I was 
left alone. Viewed from the velvety darkness of the pit, life 
seemed bathed in rosy light. After the perplexity and even 
despair through which I had passed I counted upon freedom 
as certain. Instead of a humiliating recapture and long 
months of monotonous imprisonment, probably in the com 
mon jail, I saw myself once more rejoining the Army with 
a real exploit to my credit, and in that full enjoyment of 
freedom and keen pursuit of adventure dear to the heart of 
youth. In this comfortable mood, and speeded by intense 
fatigue, I soon slept the sleep of the weary but of the 




I DO not know how many hours I slept, but the following 
afternoon must have been far advanced when I found 
myself thoroughly awake. I put out my hand for the candle, 
but could feel it nowhere. I did not. know what pitfalls these 
mining-galleries might contain, so I thought it better to lie 
quiet on my mattress and await developments. Several hours 
passed before the faint gleam of a lantern showed that some 
one was coming. It proved to be Mr. Howard himself, 
armed with a chicken and other good things. He also brought 
several books. He asked me why I had not lighted my 
candle. I said I couldn't find it. 

'Didn't you put it under the mattress? 5 he asked. 

c Then the rats must have got it.' 

He told me there were swarms of rats in the mine, that 
some years ago he had introduced a particular kind of white 
rat, which was an excellent scavenger, and that these had 
multiplied and thriven exceedingly. He told me he had been 
to the house of an English doctor twenty miles away to get 
the chicken. He was worried at the attitude of the two Dutch 
servants, who were very inquisitive about the depredations 
upon the leg of mutton for which I had been responsible. If 
he could not get another chicken cooked for the next day, he 
would have to take double helpings on his own plate and slip 
the surplus into a parcel for me while the servant was out of 
the room. He said that inquiries were being made for me all 
over the district by the Boers, and that the Pretoria Govern 
ment was making a tremendous fuss about my escape. The 
fact that there were a number of English remaining in the 
Middleburg mining region indicated it as a likely place for 



me to have turned to, and all persons of English origin were 
more or less suspect. 

I again expressed my willingness to go on alone with a 
Kaffir guide and a pony, but this he utterly refused to enter 
tain. It would take a lot of planning, he said, to get me out 
of the country, and I might have to stay in the mine for quite 
a long time. 

'Here,' he said, 'you are absolutely safe. Mac 5 (by which 
he meant one of the Scottish miners) 'knows all the disused 
workings and places that no one else would dream of. There 
is one place here where the water actually touches the roof 
for a foot or two. If they searched the mine, Mac would dive 
under that with you into the workings cut off beyond the 
water. No one would ever think of looking there. We have 
frightened the Kaffirs with tales of ghosts, and anyhow, we 
are watching their movements continually.' 

He stayed with me while I dined, and then departed, 
leaving me, among other things, half-a-dozen candles which, 
duly warned, I tucked under my pillow and mattress. 

I slept again for a long time, and woke suddenly with a 
feeling of movement about me. Something seemed to be 
pulling at my pillow. I put out my hand quickly. There was 
a perfect scurry. The rats were at the candles. I rescued the 
candles in time, and lighted one. Luckily for me, I have no 
horror of rats as such, and being reassured by their evident 
timidity, I was not particularly uneasy. All the same, the 
three days I passed in the mine were not among the most 
pleasant which my memory re-illumines. The patter of little 
feet and a perceptible sense of stir and scurry were continu 
ous. Once I was waked up from a doze by one actually gal 
loping across me. On the candle being lighted these beings 
became invisible. 

The next day If you can call it day arrived in due 
course. This was December 14, and the third day since I had 
escaped from the State Model Schools. It was relieved by 
a visit from the two Scottish miners, with whom I had a long 



confabulation. I then learned, to my surprise, that the mine- 
was only about two hundred feet deep. 

There were parts of it, said Mac, where one could see the 
daylight up a disused shaft. Would I like to take a turn 
around the old workings and have a glimmer? We passed an 
hour or two wandering round and up and down these sub 
terranean galleries, and spent a quarter of an hour near the 
bottom of the shaft, where, grey and faint, the light of the 
sun and of the upper world was discerned. On this prome 
nade I saw numbers of rats. They seemed rather nice little 
beasts, quite white, with dark eyes which I was assured in the 
daylight were a bright pink. Three years afterwards a British 
officer on duty in the district wrote to me that he had heard 
my statement at a lecture about the white rats and their pink 
eyes, and thought it was the limit of mendacity. He had 
taken the trouble to visit the mine and see for himself, and 
he proceeded to apologise for having doubted my truthful 

On the 1 5th Mr. Howard announced that the hue and cry 
seemed to be dying away. No trace of the fugitive had been 
discovered throughout the mining district. The talk among 
the Boer officials was now that I must be hiding at the house 
of some British sympathiser in Pretoria. They did not be 
lieve that it was possible I could have got out of the town. 
In these circumstances he thought that I might come up and 
have a walk on the veldt that night, and that if all was quiet 
the next morning I might shift my quarters to the back room 
of the office. On the one hand he seemed reassured, and on 
the other increasingly excited by the adventure. Accordingly, 
I had a fine stroll in the glorious fresh air and moonlight, 
and thereafter, anticipating slightly our programme, I took 
up my quarters behind packing-cases in the inner room of 
the office. Here I remained for three more days, walking 
each night on the endless plain with Mr. Howard or his as 

On the 1 6th, the fifth day of escape, Mr. Howard in- 



formed me he had made a plan to get me out of the country. 
The mine was connected with the railway by a branch line. 
In the neighbourhood of the mine there lived a Dutchman, 
Burgener by name, who was sending a consignment of wool 
to Delagoa Bay on the igth. This gentleman was well dis 
posed to the British. He had been approached by Mr. How 
ard, had been made a party to our secret, and was willing to 
assist. Mr. Burgener's wool was packed in great bales and 
would fill two or three large trucks. These trucks were to be 
loaded at the mine's siding. The bales could be so packed as 
to leave a small place in the centre of the truck in which I 
could be concealed. A tarpaulin would be fastened over each 
truck after it had been loaded, and it was very unlikely in 
deed that, if the fastenings were found intact, it would be 
removed at the frontier. Did I agree to take this chance? 

I was more worried about this than almost anything that 
had happened to me so far in my adventure. When by ex 
traordinary chance one has gained some great advantage or 
prize and actually had it in one's possession and been enjoy 
ing it for several days, the idea of losing it becomes almost 
insupportable. I had really come to count upon freedom as 
a certainty, and the idea of having to put myself in a position 
in which I should be perfectly helpless, without a move of 
any kind, absolutely at the caprice of a searching party at the 
frontier, was profoundly harassing. Rather than face this 
ordeal I would much have preferred to start off on the veldt 
with a pony and a guide, and far from the haunts of man to 
make my way march by march beyond the wide territories of 
the Boer Republic. However, in the end I accepted the pro 
posal of my generous rescuer, and arrangements were made 

I should have been still more anxious if I could have read 
some of the telegrams which were reaching English news 
papers. For instance: 

Pretoria, December 13. Though Mr. Churchill's escape 



was cleverly executed there is little chance of his being 
able to cross the border. 

Pretoria, December 14. It is reported that Mr. Winston 
Churchill has been captured at the border railway sta 
tion of Komati Poort. 

Lourengo Marques, December 1 6. It is reported that Mr. 
Churchill has been captured at Waterval Boven. 

London, December 1 6. With reference to the escape from 
Pretoria of Mr. Winston Churchill, fears are expressed 
that he may be captured again before long and if so 
may probably be shot j 

or if I had read the description of myself and the reward for 
my recapture which were now widely distributed or posted 
along the railway line. I am glad I knew nothing of all 

The afternoon of the i8th dragged slowly away, I re 
member that I spent the greater part of it reading Steven 
son's Kidncvp'ped. Those thrilling pages which describe the 
escape of David Balfour and Alan Breck in the glens awak 
ened sensations with which I was only too familiar. To be 
a fugitive, to be a hunted man, to be 'wanted, 5 is a mental 
experience by itself. The risks of the battlefield, the hazards 
of the bullet or the shell are one thing. Having the police 
after you is another. The need for concealment and decep 
tion breeds an actual sense of guilt very undermining to 
morale. Feeling that at any moment the officers of the law 
may present themselves or any stranger may ask the ques 
tions, 'Who are you? 3 * Where do you come from?' c Where 
are you going? 5 to which questions no satisfactory answer 
could be given gnawed the structure of self-confidence. I 
dreaded in every fibre the ordeal which awaited me at Ko 
mati Poort and which I must impotently and passively en 
dure if I was to make good my escape from the enemy. 

In this mood I was startled by the sound of rifle-shots 
close at hand, one after another at irregular intervals. A 



dead or alive to. this office. . . ,.. 

For the Sub-Commission of 

(Signed) LODK. de HAAS, Sea. 


sinister explanation flashed through my mind. The Boers 
had come! Howard and his handful of Englishmen were in 
open rebellion in the heart of the enemy's country! I had 
been strictly enjoined upon no account to leave my hiding- 
place behind the packing-cases in any circumstances whatever, 
and I accordingly remained there in great anxiety. Presently 
it became clear that the worst had not happened. The sounds 
of voices and presently of laughter came from the office. 
Evidently a conversation amicable, sociable in its character 
was in progress. I resumed my companionship with Alan 
Breck. At last the voices died away, and then after an in 
terval my door was opened and Mr. Howard's pale, sombre 
face appeared, suffused by a broad grin. He relocked the 
door behind him and walked delicately towards me, evi 
dently in high glee. 

c The Field Cornet has been here,' he said. 'No, he was not 
looking for you. He says they caught you at Waterval Boven 
yesterday. But I didn't want him messing about, so I chal 
lenged him to a rifle match at bottles. He won two pounds 
off me and has gone away delighted. 

'It is all fixed up for to-night,' he added. 

< What do I do? 'I asked. 

'Nothing. You simply follow me when I come for you.' 

At two o'clock on the morning of the igth I awaited, fully 
dressed, the signal. The door opened. My host appeared. He 
beckoned. Not a word was spoken on either side. He led the 
way through the front office to the siding where three large 
bogie trucks stood. Three figures, evidently Dewsnap and the 
miners, were strolling about in different directions in the 
moonlight. A gang of Kaffirs were busy lifting an enormous 
bale into the rearmost truck. Howard strolled along to the 
first truck and walked across the line past the end of it. As 
he did so he pointed with his left hand. I nipped on to the 
buffers and saw before me a hole between the wool bales and 
the end of the truck, just wide enough to squeeze into. From 



this there led a narrow tunnel formed of wool bales into the 
centre of the truck. Here was a space wide enough to lie in, 
high enough to sit up in. In this I took up my abode. 

Three or four hours later, when gleams of daylight had 
reached me through the interstices of my shelter and through 
chinks in the boards of the floorings of the truck, the noise of 
an approaching engine was heard. Then came the bumping 
and banging of coupling up. And again, after a further pause, 
we started rumbling off on our journey into the unknown. 

I now took stock of my new abode and of the resources in 
munitions and supplies with which it was furnished. First 
there was a revolver. This was a moral support, though it 
was not easy to see in what way it could helpfully be applied 
to any problem I was likely to have to solve. Secondly, there 
were two roast chickens, some slices of meat, a loaf of bread, 
a melon, and three bottles of cold tea. The journey to the sea 
was not expected to take more than sixteen hours, but no one 
could tell what delay might occur to ordinary commercial 
traffic in time of war. 

There was plenty of light now in the recess in which I was 
confined. There were many crevices in the boards composing 
the sides and floor of the truck, and through these the light 
found its way between the wool bales. Working along the 
tunnel to the end of the truck, I found a chink which must 
have been nearly an eighth of an inch in width, and through 
which it was possible to gain a partial view of the outer 
world. To check the progress of the journey I had learnt 
by heart beforehand the names of all the stations on the 
route. I can remember many of them to-day: Witbank, Mid- 
delburg, Bergendal, Belfast, Dalmanutha, Machadodorp, 
Waterval Boven, Waterval Onder, Elands, Nooidgedacht, 
and so on to Komati Poort. We had by now reached the first 
of these. At this point the branch line from the mine joined 
the railway. Here, after two or three hours' delay and shunt 
ing, we were evidently coupled up to a regular train, and 
soon started off at a superior and very satisfactory pace. 



All day long we travelled eastward through the Trans 
vaal, and when darkness fell we were laid up for the night 
at a station which, according to my reckoning, was Waterval 
Boven. We had accomplished nearly half of our journey. But 
how long should we wait on this siding? It might be for 
daysj it would certainly be until the next morning. During 
all the dragging hours of the day I had lain on the floor of 
the truck occupying my mind as best I could, painting bright 
pictures of the pleasures of freedom, of the excitement of 
rejoining the army, of the triumph of a successful escape 
but haunted also perpetually by anxieties about the search at 
the frontier, an ordeal inevitable and constantly approaching. 
Now another apprehension laid hold upon me. I wanted to 
go to sleep. Indeed, I did not think I could possibly keep 
awake. But if I slept I might snore! And if I snored while 
the train was at rest in the silent siding, I might be heard. 
And if I were heard! I decided in principle that it was only 
prudent to abstain from sleep, and shortly afterwards fell 
into a blissful slumber from which I was awakened the next 
morning by the banging and jerking of the train as the en 
gine was again coupled to it. 

Between Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder there is a 
very steep descent which the locomotive accomplishes by 
means of a rack and pinion. We ground our way down this 
at three or four miles an hour, and this feature made my 
reckoning certain that the next station was, in fact, Waterval 
Onder. All this day, too, we rattled through the enemy's 
country, and late in the afternoon we reached the dreaded 
Komati Poort. Peeping through my chink, I could see this 
was a considerable place, with numerous tracks of rails and 
several trains standing on them. Numbers of people were 
moving about. There were many voices and much shouting 
and whistling. After a preliminary inspection of the scene I 
retreated, as the train pulled up, into the very centre of my 
fastness, and covering myself up with a piece of sacking lay 
flat on the floor of the truck and awaited developments with 
a beating heart. 294 


Three or four hours passed, and I did not know whether 
we had been searched or not. Several times people had passed 
up and down the train talking in Dutch. But the tarpaulins 
had not been removed, and no special examination seemed to 
have been made of the truck. Meanwhile darkness had come 
on, and I had to resign myself to an indefinite continuance 
of my uncertainties. It was tantalizing to be held so long in 
jeopardy after all these hundreds of miles had been accom 
plished, and I was now within a few hundred yards of the 
frontier. Again I wondered about the dangers of snoring. 
But in the end I slept without mishap. 

We were still stationary when I awoke. Perhaps they were 
searching the train so thoroughly that there was conse 
quently a great delay! Alternatively, perhaps we were for 
gotten on the siding and would be left there for days or 
weeks. I was greatly tempted to peer out, but I resisted. At 
last, at eleven o'clock, we were coupled up, and almost im 
mediately started. If I had been right in thinking that the 
station in which we had passed the night was Komati Poort, 
I was already in Portuguese territory. But perhaps I had 
made a mistake. Perhaps I had miscounted. Perhaps there 
was still another station before the frontier. Perhaps the 
search still impended. But all these doubts were dispelled 
when the train arrived at the next station. I peered through 
my chink and saw the uniform caps of the Portuguese of 
ficials on the platform and the name Resana Garcia painted 
on a board. I restrained all expression of my joy until we 
moved on again. Then, as we rumbled and banged along, I 
pushed my head out of the tarpaulin and sang and shouted 
and crowed at the top of my voice. Indeed, I was so carried 
away by thankfulness and delight that I fired my revolver 
two or three times in the air as a feu de joie. None of these 
follies led to any evil results. 

It was late in the afternoon when we reached Lourengo 
Marques. My train ran into a goods yard, and a crowd of 
Kaffirs advanced to unload it. I thought the moment had 



now come for me to quit my hiding-place, in which I had 
passed nearly three anxious and uncomfortable days. I had 
already thrown out every vestige of food and had removed 
all traces of my occupation. I now slipped out at the end of 
the truck between the couplings, and mingling unnoticed 
with the Kaffirs and loafers in the yard which my slovenly 
and unkempt appearance well fitted me to do I strolled 
my way towards the gates and found myself in the streets of 
Lourengo Marques. 

Burgener was waiting outside the gates. We exchanged 
glances. He turned and walked off into the town, and I fol 
lowed twenty yards behind. We walked through several 
streets and turned a number of corners. Presently he stopped 
and stood for a moment gazing up at the roof of the opposite 
house. I looked in the same direction, and there blest vi 
sion! I saw floating the gay colours of the Union Jack. It 
was the British Consulate. 

The secretary of the British Consul evidently did not ex 
pect my arrival. 

c Be off, 7 he said. 'The Consul cannot see you to-day. Come 
to his office at nine to-morrow, if you want anything. 3 

At this I became so angry, and repeated so loudly that I 
insisted on seeing the Consul personally at once, that that 
gentleman himself looked out of the window and finally 
came down to the door and asked me my name. From that 
moment every resource of hospitality and welcome was at my 
disposal. A hot bath, clean clothing, an excellent dinner, 
means of telegraphing all I could want. 

I devoured the file of newspapers which was placed before 
me. Great events had taken place since I had climbed the 
wall of the States Model Schools. The Black Week of the 
Boer War had descended on the British Army. General 
Gatacre at Stormberg, Lord Methuen at Magersfontein, and 
Sir Redvers Buller at Colenso, had all suffered staggering 
defeats, and casualties on a scale unknown to England since 
the f Crimean War. All this made me eager to rejoin the 



army, and the Consul himself was no less anxious to get me 
out of Lourengo Marques, which was full of Boers and Boer 
sympathizers. Happily the weekly steamer was leaving for 
Durban that very evening; in fact, it might almost be said 
it ran in connection with my train. On this steamer I decided 
to embark. 

The news of my arrival had spread like wildfire through 
the town, and while we were at dinner the Consul was at 
first disturbed to cz& a group of strange figures in the garden. 
These, however, turned out to be Englishmen fully armed 
who had harried up to the Consulate determined to resist 
any attempt at my recapture. Under the escort of these 
patriotic gentlemen I marched safely through the streets to 
the quay, and at about ten o'clock was on salt water in the 
steamship Induna. 

I reached Durban to find myself a popular hero. I was 
received as if I had won a great victory. The harbour was 
decorated with flags. Bands and crowds thronged the quays. 
The Admiral, the General, the Mayor pressed on board to 
grasp my hand. I was nearly torn to pieces by enthusiastic 
kindness. Whirled along on the shoulders of the crowd, I 
was carried to the steps of the town hall, where nothing 
would content them but a speech, which after a becoming 
reluctance I was induced to deliver. Sheaves of telegrams 
from all parts of the world poured in upon me, and I started 
that night for the Army in a blaze of triumph. 

Here, too, I was received with the greatest goodwill. I 
took up my quarters in the very plate-layer's hut within one 
hundred yards of which I had a little more than a month 
before been taken prisoner, and there with the rude plenty 
of the Natal campaign celebrated by a dinner to many 
friends my good fortune and Christmas Eve. 



I FOUND that during the weeks I had been a prisoner of 
war my name had resounded at home. The part I had 
played in the armoured train had been exaggerated by the 
railway men and the wounded who had come back safely on 
the engine. The tale was transmitted to England with many 
crude or picturesque additions by the Press correspondents 
gathered at Estcourt. The papers had therefore been filled 
with extravagant praise of my behaviour. The news of my 
escape coming on the top of all this, after nine days' suspense 
and rumours of recapture, provoked another outburst of pub 
lic eulogy. Youth seeks Adventure. Journalism requires Ad 
vertisement. Certainly I had found both. I became for the 
time quite famous. The British nation was smarting under a 
series of military reverses such as are so often necessary to 
evoke the exercise of its strength, and the news of my out 
witting the Boers was received with enormous and no doubt 
disproportionate satisfaction. This produced the inevitable 
reaction, and an undercurrent of disparagement, equally un 
deserved, began to mingle with the gushing tributes. For 
instance Truth of November 23: 

c . . . The train was upset and Mr. Churchill is described 
as having rallied the force by calling out "Be men! be men!" 
But what can the officers have been doing who were in com 
mand of the detachment? Again, were the men showing signs 
of behaving otherwise than as men? Would officers in com 
mand on the battlefield permit a journalist to "rally" those 
who were under their orders?' 

The Phoenix (now extinct), November 23: 
c That Mr. Winston Churchill saved the life of a wounded 
man in an armoured train is very likely. Possibly he also 
seized a rifle and fired at a Boer. But the question occurs 



what was he doing in the armoured train? He had no right 
there whatever. He is not now a soldier, although he once 
held a commission in the Fourth Hussars, and I hear that he 
no longer represents the Morning Post. Either, then, who 
ever commanded this ill-fated armoured train overstepped 
his duty in allowing Mr. Churchill to be a passenger by the 
train, or Mr. Churchill took the unwarrantable liberty of 
going without permission, thereby adding to the already 
weighty responsibilities of the officer in command.' . . . The 
Phoenix continued in a fairly cold-blooded spirit, considering 
that I was a fellow-countryman still in the hands of the en 
emy and whose case was undetermined: c lt is to be sincerely 
hoped that Mr. Churchill will not be shot. At the same time 
the Boer General cannot be blamed should he order his ex 
ecution. A non-combatant has no right to carry arms. In the 
Franco-Prussian War all non-combatants who carried arms 
were promptly executed, when they were caught 5 and we 
can hardly expect the Boers to be more humane than were 
the highly civilized French and Germans.' . . . 
The Daily Nation (also extinct) of December 16: 
'Mr. Churchill's escape is not regarded in military circles 
as either a brilliant or honourable exploit. He was captured 
as a combatant, and of course placed under the same parole 
as the officers taken prisoners. He has however chosen to dis 
regard an honourable undertaking, and it would not be sur 
prising if the Pretoria authorities adopted more strenuous 
measures to prevent such conduct.' . . . 

Finally the Westminster Gazette of December 26: 
'Mr. Winston Churchill is once more free. With his ac 
customed ingenuity he has managed to escape from Pretoria j 
and the Government there is busy trying to find out how the 
escape was managed. So far, so good. But whilst it was 
perfectly within the rules of the game to get free, we con 
fess that we hardly understand the application whkh Mr. 
Churchill is reported to have made to General Joubert ask 
ing to be released on the ground that he was a newspaper 



correspondent and had taken "no part in the fighting." We 
rubbed our eyes when we read this have we not read glow 
ing (and apparently authentic) accounts of Mr. Churchill's 
heroic exploits in the armoured train affair? General Jou 
bert, apparently, rubbed his eyes too. He replied that Mr. 
Churchill unknown to him personally was detained be 
cause all the Natal papers attributed the escape of the ar 
moured train to his bravery and exertion. But since this 
seemed to be a mistake, the General would take the corre 
spondent's word that he was a non-combatant, and sent an 
order for his release which arrived half a day after Mr. 
Churchill had escaped. Mr. Churchill's non-combatancy is 
indeed a mystery, but one thing is clear that he cannot have 
the best of both worlds. His letter to General Joubert abso 
lutely disposes of that probable V.C. with which numerous 
correspondents have decorated him.' 

When these comments were sent me I could not but think 
them ungenerous. I had been in no way responsible for the 
tales which the railway men and the wounded from the ar 
moured train had told, nor for the form in which these state 
ments had been transmitted to England 5 and still less for 
the wide publicity accorded to them there. I was a prisoner 
and perforce silent. The reader of these pages will under 
stand why I accompanied Captain Haldane on his ill-starred 
reconnaissance, and exactly the part I had taken in the fight, 
and can therefore judge for himself how far my claim to be 
a non-combatant was valid. Whether General Joubert had 
actually reversed his previous decision to hold me as a pris 
oner of war or not, I do not know, but it is certainly an odd 
coincidence that this order should only have been given pub 
licity tfter I had escaped from the State Model Schools. The 
statement that I had broken my parole or any honourable 
understanding in escaping was of course untrue. No parole 
was extended to any of the prisoners of war, and we were all 
kept as I have described in strict confinement under armed 
guard. The lie once started, however, persisted in the alleys 



of political controversy, and I have been forced to extort 
damages and public apologies by prosecutions for libel on at 
least four separate occasions. At the time I thought the Pro- 
Boers were a spiteful lot. 

Criticism was also excited in military and society circles 
by a telegram which I sent to the Morning Post from Dur 

'Reviewing the whole situation/ I wrote, c it is foolish not 
to recognize that we are fighting a formidable and terrible 
adversary. The high qualities of the burghers increase their 
efficiency. The Government, though vilely corrupt, devote 
their whole energies to military operations. 

<We must face the facts. The individual Boer, mounted in 
suitable country, is worth from three to five regular soldiers. 
The power of modern rifles is so tremendous that frontal 
attacks must often be repulsed. The extraordinary mobility 
of the enemy protects his flanks. The only way of treating 
the problem is either to get men equal in character and in 
telligence as riflemen, or, failing the individual, huge masses 
of troops. The advance of an army of 80,000 men in force, 
covered by 1 50 guns in line, would be an operation beyond 
the Boer's capacity to grapple with, but columns of 15,000 
are only strong enough to suffer loss. It is a perilous policy 
to dribble out reinforcements and to fritter away armies.. 

'The Republics must weaken, like the Confederate States, 
through attrition. We should show no hurry, but we should 
collect overwhelming masses of troops. It would be much 
cheaper in the end to send more than necessary. There is 
plenty of work here for a quarter of a million men, and 
South Africa is well worth the cost in blood and money. 
More irregular corps are wanted. Are the gentlemen of Eng 
land all foxhunting? Why not an English Light Horse? For 
the sake of our manhood, our devoted colonists, and our dead 
soldiers, we must persevere with the war.* 

These unpalatable truths were resented. The assertion 
that 'the individual Boer mounted in suitable country was 



worth from three to five regular soldiers' was held deroga 
tory to the Army. The estimate of a quarter of a million men 
being necessary was condemned as absurd. Quoth the Morn 
ing Leader: 'We have received no confirmation of the state 
ment that Lord Lansdowne has, pending the arrival of Lord 
Roberts, appointed Mr. Winston Churchill to command the 
troops in South Africa, with General Sir Redvers Buller, 
V.C., as his Chief of Staff.' Unhappily this was sarcasm. The 
old colonels and generals at the 'Buck and Dodder Club' 
were furious. Some of them sent me a cable saying, 'Best 
friends here hope you will not continue making further ass 
of yourself.' However, my 'infantile' opinions were speedily 
vindicated by events. Ten thousand Imperial Yeomanry and 
gentlemen volunteers of every kind were sent to reinforce 
the professional army, and more than a quarter of a million 
British soldiers, or five times the total Boer forces, stood on 
South African soil before success was won. I might therefore 
console myself from the Bible: 'Better a poor and a wise 
child than an old and foolish king. . . .' 

Meanwhile the disasters of the 'Black Week' had aroused 
the British nation and the Administration responded to their 
mood. Mr. Balfour, deemed by his critics a ladylike, dilet 
tante dialectician, proved himself in the face of this crisis the 
mainspring of the Imperial Government. Sir Redvers Buller 
though this we did not know till long afterwards had 
been so upset by his repulse at Colenso on December 15 and 
his casualty list of eleven hundred then thought a terrible 
loss that he had sent a panic-stricken dispatch to the War 
Office and pusillanimous orders to Sir George White. He 
advised the defender of Ladysmith to fire off his ammuni 
tion and make the best terms of surrender he could. He 
cabled to the War Office on December 15: 'I do not think 
I am now strong enough to relieve White.' This cable ar 
rived at a week-end, and of the Ministers only Mr. Balfour 
was in London. He replied curtly, 'If you cannot relieve 
Ladysmith, hand your command over to Sir Francis Clery 



and return home.' White also sent a chilling reply saying 
that he had no intention of surrending. Meanwhile, some 
days earlier the German Emperor, in a curiously friendly 
mood, had sent the British Military Attache in Berlin to 
England with a personal message for Queen Victoria, say 
ing: c l cannot sit on the safety valve for ever. My people 
demand intervention. You must get a victory. I advise you 
to send out Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener.' Whether 
upon this suggestion or otherwise, Lord Roberts was, on De 
cember 1 6, appointed to the chief command, with Lord 
Kitchener as Chief of Staff. Reinforcements, comprising the 
entire British Army outside India with powerful volunteer 
additions from home and the colonies, were set in motion 
towards South Africa. Buller, strongly reinforced, was as 
signed the command in Natal with orders to persevere in the 
relief of Ladysmith, while the main army, marshalled on a 
far larger scale than originally contemplated, was to advance 
northwards from the Cape Colony to relieve Kimberley and 
capture Bloemfontein. 

Buller was by no means overjoyed at his task. He knew 
the strength of the enemy's positions on the heights beyond 
the Tugela, and since the shock he had sustained at Colenso, 
he even exaggerated the high qualities of the Boers. After 
one of his series of unsuccessful attempts to force the Tugela, 
he unbosomed himself to me in terms of the utmost candour. 
'Here I am,' he exclaimed, 'condemned to fight in Natal, 
which all my judgment has told me to avoid, and to try to 
advance along the line worst of all suited to our troops.' 

He now bent himself stubbornly to his unwelcome lot. I 
have no doubt that at his age he no longer possessed the 
military capacity, or the mental and physical vigour, or the 
resource and ruthlessness, which his duty required. Never 
theless he continued to command the confidence of his sol 
diers and remained the idol of the British public. 

I am doubtful whether the fact that a man has gained the 
Victoria Cross for bravery as a young officer fits him to com- 



mand an army twenty or thirty years later. I have noticed 
more than one serious misfortune which arose from such 
assumptions. Age, easy living, heaviness of body, many years 
of promotion and success in time of peace, dissipate the vital 
forces indispensable to intense action. During the long peace 
the State should always have ready a few naval and military 
officers of middle rank and under forty. These officers should 
be specially trained and tested. They should be moved from 
one command to another and given opportunities to take im 
portant decisions. They should be brought into the Council 
of Defence and cross-examined on their opinions. As they 
grow older they should be replaced by other men of similar 
age. 'Blind old Dandolos 5 are rare. Lord Roberts was an ex 

5JC * * # * 

After Sir Redvers Buller had examined me at length upon 
the conditions prevailing in the Transvaal, and after I had 
given him whatever information I had been able to collect 
from the somewhat scanty view-point of my chink between 
the boards of the railway truck, he said to me: 

'You have done very well. Is there anything we can do 
for you?' 

I replied at once tfiat I should like a commission in one 
of the irregular corps which were being improvised on all 
sides. The General, whom I had not seen since our voyage 
had ended, but whom, of course, I had known off and on 
during the four years I had served in the Army, appeared 
somewhat disconcerted at this, and after a considerable pause 

'What about poor old Borthwick?' meaning thereby Sir 
Algernon Borthwick, afterwards Lord Glenesk, proprietor 
of the Morning Post newspaper. I replied that I was under 
a definite contract with him as war correspondent and could 
not possibly relinquish this engagement. The situation there 
fore raised considerable issues. In the various little wars of 
the previous few years it had been customary for military 




officers on leave to act as war correspondents, and even for 
officers actually serving to undertake this double duty. This 
had been considered to be a great abuse, and no doubt it was 
open to many objections. No one had been more criticised in 
this connection than myself for my dual role both on the 
Indian frontier and up the Nile. After the Nile Expedition 
the War Office had definitely and finally decided that no 
soldier could be a correspondent and no correspondent could 
be a soldier. Here then was the new rule in all its inviolate 
sanctity, and to make an exception to it on my account above 
all others I who had been the chief cause of it was a very 
hard proposition. Sir Redvers Buller, long Adjutant-Gen 
eral at the War Office, a man of the world, but also a repre 
sentative of the strictest military school, found it very awk 
ward. He took two or three tours round the room, eyeing me 
in a droll manner. Then at last he said: 

<A11 right. You can have a commission in Bungo's 1 regi 
ment. You will have to do as much as you can for both jobs. 
But,' he added, c you will get no pay for ours.' 

To this irregular arrangement I made haste to agree* 

Behold me, then, restored to the Army with a lieutenant's 
commission in the South African Light Horse. This regiment 
of six squadrons and over 700 mounted men with a battery 
of galloping Colt machine-guns had been raised in the Cape 
Colony by Colonel Julian Byng, a Captain of the 10th Hus 
sars and an officer from whom great things were rightly ex 
pected. He made me his assistant-adjutant, and let me go 
where I liked when the regiment was not actually fighting. 
Nothing could suit me better. I stitched my badges of rank 
to my khaki coat and stuck the long plume of feathers from 
the tail of the sakabulu bird in my hat, and lived from day 
to day in perfect happiness. 

The SA.L.H. formed a part of Lord Dundonald's cav- 

1 Colonel Byng, now Lord Byng of Vimy. 



airy brigade, and the small group of officers and friends who 
inspired and directed this force nearly all attained emi 
nence in the great European War. Byng, Birdwood and 
Hubert Gough all became Army Commanders. Barnes, Solly 
Flood, Tom Bridges and several others commanded Divi 
sions. We messed together around the same camp fire or 
slept under the same wagons during the whole of the Natal 
fighting, and were the best of friends. The soldiers were of 
very varied origin, but first-rate fighting men. The S.A.L.H. 
were mostly South Africans, with a high proportion of hard 
bitten adventurers from all quarters of the world, including 
a Confederate trooper from the American Civil War. Barnes' 
squadron of Imperial Light Horse were Outlanders from 
the Rand goldfields. Two squadrons of Natal Carabineers 
and Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry were high-class farm 
ers and colonists of the invaded province, and the two com 
panies of British mounted infantry were as good as could 
be found in the Army. The Colonists* of course, especially 
the Outlanders and the men from Natal, were filled with a 
bitterness against the enemy which regular soldiers in those 
days considered unprofessional} but all worked cordially to 




is not the place to re-tell at any length the story of 
JL the Relief of Ladysmith: but a brief account is needed. 1 
Sir Redvers Buller abandoned his plan of forcing the Tugela 
at Colenso and advancing directly along the railway line. 
Having been reinforced till his army consisted of 19,000 in 
fantry, 3,000 cavalry and 60 guns, he proceeded to attempt 
to turn the Boer right flank and to cross the Tugela about 
25 miles upstream from Colenso, On January n Dundon- 
ald's cavalry brigade by a rapid march seized the heights 
overlooking Potgieter's and Trichardt's Drifts or fords j and 
on the following day all his infantry, leaving their tents 
standing and covered by our screen of cavalry outposts along 
the river, marched by easy stages by night to Trichardt's 
Drift. At daybreak on the ryth the whole of the cavalry 
crossed this ford without serious opposition, and continually 
reaching out their left hand reached by nightfall the neigh 
bourhood of Acton Homes after a sharp and successful fight 
with about 200 Boers. Meanwhile the leading infantry bri 
gade, having with some difficulty crossed the deep ford, had 
established themselves among the underfeatures of Spion 
Kop mountain and covered the throwing of two pontoon 
bridges. The bridges were completed during the morning, 
and the 2nd Division under Sir Charles Warren with an 
extra Brigade and most of the artillery of the Army crossed 
safely during the night. The morning of the i8th therefore 
saw nearly 1 6,000 troops safely across the Tugela, and their 
cavalry not very far from the open ground which lies beyond 
Acton Homes and offers two easy marches into Ladysmith. 
It was the general belief among the fighting troops, includ 
ing the experienced Colonials, that a continuance of the 

1 Here the reader should look at the map on page 317. 



Handed movement of the cavalry would have turned the 
whole line of heights west of Spion Kop mountain, and that 
the relief of Ladysmith could be effected by mere persistence 
in the movement so prosperously launched. 

Buller, on the other hand, and his staff were not without 
reason fearful of their communications. They were making 
in fact a lengthy flank march around the right of a most 
mobile enemy. One British brigade held the crossings about 
Colenso, another, Lyttelton's, was established opposite Pot- 
gieter's Drift. The main army was drawn up with its right 
resting on the base of Spion Kop mountain with the cavalry 
stretched out still farther to the left. But this front of 30 
miles was by no means continuous. At any moment two or 
three thousand Boers could have crossed the river in the 
intervals between the watching brigades, and riding south 
might have interrupted the trailing line of communications 
along which all supplies had to be carried. The nightmare 
which haunted the Commander-in-Chief was of being cut off 
from the railway and encircled like Sir George White in 
Ladysmith without even an entrenched camp or adequate 
supplies to stand a siege. These dangers were rendered real 
by the leisureliness which marred all Buller's movements. 
While we therefore in the cavalry were eager to press on in 
our wide turning movement, Buller felt it vital to shorten 
the route and for this purpose to pivot on Spion Kop moun 
tain. Accordingly on the night of the 23-24^ an infantry 
brigade and Thorneycroft's regiment (dismounted) were 
sent to seize Spion Kop. The attack was successful. The few 
Boers on the mountain fled and morning saw General Wood- 
gate's brigade established on the summit, while the rest of 
the army lay drawn out in the foothills and ridges to the 

Meanwhile the Boers had watched for six days the in 
credibly slow and ponderous movements of the British. 
Buller had sauntered and Warren had crawled. The enemy 
had had time to make entirely new dispositions and entrench- 



ments. They were able to spare from the investment of 
Ladysmith about 7,000 mounted men and perhaps a dozen 
guns and Pom-poms. When, however, they found our cav 
alry aggressively threatening Acton Homes, a panic ensued, 
and large numbers of burghers, not only individually but by 
commandos, began to trek northwards. The spectacle of the 
British in occupation of Spion Kop caused surprise rather 
than alarm. General Schalk-Burger, gathering by his per 
sonal exertions about 1,500 men, mostly of the Ermelo and 
Pretoria Commandos, began within an hour of the morning 
fog lifting a fierce rifle counter-attack upon Spion Kop, and 
at the same time directed upon it from all angles the fire 
of his few but excellently-served and widely-spread guns. 

Spion Kop is a rocky hill almost a mountain rising 
1,400 feet above the river with a flat top about as large as 
Trafalgar Square. Into this confined area 2,000 British in 
fantry were packed. There was not much cover, and they 
had not been able to dig more than very shallow trenches 
before the attack began. The Boer assailants very quickly 
established a superiority in the rifle duel. Shrapnel converg 
ing from a half-circle lashed the crowded troops. It would 
have been easier for the British to advance than to hold the 
summit. A thrust forward down all the slopes of Spion Kop 
accompanied by the advance of the whole army against the 
positions immediately in their front would certainly at this 
time have been successful. Instead of this, the brigade on the 
top of Spion Kop was left to bear its punishment throughout 
the long hours of the South African summer day. The gen 
eral was killed at the beginning of the action, and losses, ter 
rible in proportion to the numbers engaged, were suffered by 
the brigade. With equal difficulty and constancy the summit 
was held till nightfall} but at least 1,000 officers and men, 
or half the force exposed to the fire, were killed or wounded 
in this cramped space. In a desperate effort to relieve the 
situation Lyttleton sent two battalions across the river at 
Potgieter's Drift. These fine troops the 6oth Rifles and the 



Cameronians climbed the hill from the other side and ac 
tually established themselves on two nipples called the Twin 
Peaks, which were indeed decisive points, had their capture 
been used with resolution by the Commander-in-Chief . The 
rest of the army looked on, and night fell with the British 
sorely stricken, but still in possession of all the decisive posi 

I had marched with the cavalry to the Tugela, passed a 
precarious week expecting attack on our thin-spun outpost 
line, crossed the river at Trichardt's Drift early on the morn 
ing of the 1 7th, and taken part in the skirmish at Acton 
Homes on that evening. This was an inspiriting affair. The 
Boers thought they were going to outflank our brigade and 
lay an ambush for it, while two of our squadrons galloping 
concealed along the low ground by the river performed the 
same office for them. The enemy rode into a spoon-shaped 
hollow quite carelessly in pairs, and we opened fire on them 
from three sides and eventually got about half, including 30 
prisoners, our losses being only four or five. Of course both 
cavalry brigades ought to have been allowed to go on the 
next day and engage the enemy freely, thus drawing him 
away from the front of the infantry. However, peremptory 
orders were issued for all the cavalry to come back into close 
touch with the left of the infantry. In this position three 
days later (2Oth) we attacked the line of heights beyond 
Venter's Spruit. We trotted to the stream under shell fire, 
left our horses in its hollows, and climbed the steep slopes 
on foot, driving back the Boer outposts. Following sound 
tactics we advanced up the salients, stormed Child's Kopje, 
and reached the general crest line with barely a score of cas 
ualties. These hills are however table-topped, and the Boers, 
whose instinct for war was better than the drill-books, had a 
line of trenches and rifle-pits about 300 yards back from the 
edge of the table. They saluted with a storm of bullets 
every man or head that showed, and no advance was possible 
across this bare grass glacis. We therefore hung on along 



the edge of the table until we were relieved after dark by the 

The next day was for us a day of rest, but on the morning 
of the 24th when we awoke, all eyes were directed to the top 
of Spion Kop mountain which frowned upon our right. We 
were told it had been captured in the night by our troops, 
and that the Boers were counter-attacking was evident from 
the ceaseless crown of shrapnel shells bursting around the 
summit. After luncheon I rode with a companion to Three 
Tree Hill to see what was going on. Here were six field bat 
teries and a battery of howitzers, an enormously powerful 
force in such a war; but they did not know what to fire at. 
They could not find the scattered Boer guns which all the 
time were bombarding Spion Kop, and no other targets were 
visible. We decided to ascend the mountain. Leaving our 
horses at its foot we climbed from one enormous boulder to 
another up its rear arete, starting near Wright's farm. The 
severity of the action was evident. Streams of wounded, 
some carried or accompanied by as many as four or five un- 
wounded soldiers, trickled and even flowed down the hill, 
at the foot of which two hospital villages of tents and wag 
gons were rapidly growing. At the edge of the table-top was 
a reserve battalion quite intact, and another brigadier who 
seemed to have nothing to do. Here we learned that after 
General Woodgate had been killed, Colonel Thorneycroft 
had been placed in command of all the troops on the summit 
and was fighting desperately. The brigadier had received 
orders not to supersede him. The white flag had already 
gone up once and the Boers had advanced to take the sur 
render of several companies, but Thorneycroft had arrived 
in a fury, had beaten down the flag, and heavy firing had 
been resumed at close quarters by both sides. To our right 
we could see the Twin Peaks, on which tiny figures moved 
from time to time. It was generally assumed they were the 
enemy. If so they were well posted and would soon com 
promise the retreat of the force. They were in fact our 



friends, the Cameronians from Potgieter's Drift. We crawled 
forward a short way on to the plateau, but the fire was much 
too hot for mere sight-seeing. We decided we would go and 
report the situation to the Staff. 

It was sunset when we reached the headquarters of the 
2nd Division. Sir Charles Warren was an officer 59 years 
old, and aged for his years. Sixteen years before he had com 
manded an expedition to Bechuanaland. He had been sec 
onded from the army to become Chief Commissioner of the 
Metropolitan Police. He was now resuscitated to a most ac 
tive and responsible position. He seemed worried. He had 
had no communication with the summit for several hours. 
Our tidings did not cheer him. His Staff Officer said, 'We 
have been very anxious all day, but the worst should be over 
now. We will send up fresh troops, dig in all night, and hold 
the position with a much smaller force to-morrow. Go now 
and tell this to Colonel Thorneycroft.' I asked for a written 
message, and the officer complied with this request. 

So I climbed the mountain again, this time in pitch dark 
ness. I passed through the reserve battalion still untouched 
and walked out on to the top of the plateau. The firing had 
died away and only occasional bullets sang through the air. 
The ground was thickly dotted with killed and wounded and 
I wandered about for some time before I found Colonel 
Thorneycroft. I saluted, congratulated him on becoming 
Brigadier-General, and handed him my note. 'Precious lot 
of brigadier there'll be to-morrow, 5 he said. C I ordered a 
general retirement an hour ago.' He read the note. 'There 
is nothing definite in this,' he said impatiently. 'Reinforce- 
ments indeed! There are too many men here already. What 
is the general plan?' I said, 'Had I not better go and tell 
Sir Charles Warren before you retire from the hill? I am 
sure he meant you to hold on.' 'No,' he said, 'I have made 
up my mind. The retirement is already in progress. We have 
given up a lot of ground. We may be cut off at any moment,' 
and then, with great emphasis, 'Better six good battalions 



safely off the hill to-night than a bloody mop-up in the 
morning.' As he had no aide-de-camp or staff officer and was 
exhausted morally and physically by the ordeal through 
which he had passed, I continued at his side while for an 
hour or more the long files of men trooped in the darkness 
down the hill. 

All was quiet now, and we were I think almost the last to 
leave the scene. As we passed through a few stunted trees 
dark figures appeared close at hand. 'Boers,' said Thorney- 
croft in a whisper 5 'I knew they'd cut us off.' We drew our 
revolvers. Of course they were our own men. As we quitted 
the plateau a hundred yards farther on, we came upon the 
reserve battalion still fresh and unused. Colonel Thorney- 
croft gazed at the clustering soldiers for a minute or two as 
if once again balancing the decision, but the entire plateau 
was now evacuated and for all we knew re-occupied by the 
enemy, and shaking his head he resumed the descent. When 
half an hour later we had nearly reached the bottom of the 
mountain, we met a long column of men with picks and 
shovels. The sapper officer at their head had a shrouded 
lanterri. *I have a message for Colonel Thorneycroft,' he 
said. 'Read it,' said Thorneycroft to me. I tore the envelope. 
The message was short. 'We are sending,' it said in effect, 
'400 sappers and a fresh battalion. Entrench yourselves 
strongly by morning,' but Colonel Thorneycroft, brandish 
ing his walking-stick, ordered the relieving troops to counter 
march and we all trooped down together. The night was 
very dark, and it took me an hour to find the way through 
the broken ground to Warren's headquarters. The general 
was asleep. I put my hand on his shoulder and woke him up. 
'Colonel Thorneycroft is here, sir.' He took it all very 
calmly. He was a charming old gentleman. I was genuinely 
sorry for him. I was also sorry for the army. 

Colonel Thorneycroft erred gravely in retiring against 
his orders from the position he had so nobly held by the 
sacrifices of his troops. His extraordinary personal bravery 



throughout the day and the fact that his resolution had alone 
prevented a fatal surrender more than once during the action 
were held to condone and cover a military crime. It was cer 
tainly not for those who had left him so long without defi 
nite orders or any contact to lay the blame on him. A young 
active divisional general, having made all plans for the 
relief, would have joined him on the summit at nightfall 
and settled everything in person. A cruel misfortune would 
thus have been averted. 

The Boers had also suffered heavy losses in the fight and 
had been grievously disheartened by their failure to take the 
hill. They were actually in retreat when Louis Botha pri 
vate two months before, now in chief command coming 
from Ladysmith, turned them round and led them on to the 
table-top. All were appalled by the carnage. The shallow 
trenches were choked with dead and wounded. Nearly a 
hundred officers had fallen. Having re-occupied the position 
Botha sent forthwith a flag of truce inviting us to tend and 
gather our wounded and bury the dead. The 25th passed in 
complete silence. During the 25th and 26th our enormous 
wagon train rumbled back across the bridges, and on the 
night of the 26th the whole of the fighting troops recrossed 
the river. I have never understood why the Boers did not 
shell the bridges. As it was we passed unmolested, and Sir 
Redvers Buller was able to proclaim that he had effected his 
retreat 'without the loss of a man or a pound of stores.' That 
was all there was to show for the operations of a whole army 
corps for sixteen days at a cost of about eighteen hundred 

Buller's next effort was directed against the ridges run 
ning eastward of Spion Kop to the bluffs of Doom Kloof. 
The army had received drafts and reinforcements. The ar 
tillery had increased to nearly 100 guns, including a number 
of 5O-pounder long-range naval guns. The plan was com 
plicated, but can be simply explained. A bridge had been 
thrown across the river at Potgieter's Drift. An infantry 



brigade supported by the bulk of the artillery was to threaten 
the centre of the Boer position. While the enemy's eyes 
were supposed to be riveted upon this, three other brigades 
were to move to a point two miles downstream, where a 
second bridge would be rapidly thrown. One of these bri 
gades was to attack the Vaal Krantz ridge upon its left, the 
others were to attack the Doom Kloof position. The two 
cavalry brigades, the regulars and our own with a battery of 
horse artillery, were then to gallop towards Klip Poort 
through the hoped-for gap opened by these outward-wheel 
ing attacks. We heard these proposals, when in deep secrecy 
they were confided to us the night before, with some con 
cern. In fact when from Spearman's Hill we surveyed with 
telescopes the broken ground, interspersed with hummocks 
and watercourses and dotted with scrub and boulders, into 
which we were to be launched on horseback, we expected 
very rough treatment. However, the matter was not one on 
which we were invited to express an opinion. 

The action began with a tremendous bombardment by our 
heavy artillery mounted on Zwaart Kop, and as our long 
cavalry columns filed slowly down the tracks from Spear 
man's Hill towards the river the spectacle was striking. The 
enemy's positions on the Vaal Krantz ridge smoked like vol 
canoes under the bursting shells. I had obtained a commis 
sion in the S.A.L.H. for my brother, who was just nineteen. 
He had arrived only two days before, and we rode down the 
hill together. Lyttelton's brigade crossed the second bridge, 
deployed to its left, and attacked the eastern end of the Vaal 
Krantz position. When they could get no farther they dug 
themselves in. It was now the turn of the second brigade 5 
but there seemed great reluctance to launch this into the very 
difficult ground beyond the lower bridge. A battalion was 
soon involved in heavy fighting and the movement of the 
rest of the brigade was suspended. So about four o'clock in 
the afternoon we were told we should not be wanted till the 
next day. We bivouacked at the foot of the Heights, dis- 



turbed only by an occasional hostile shell. Although all our 
transport was only five miles back, we had nothing but what 
was necessary for our intended gallop through the gap, if 
gap there were. The night was chilly. Colonel Byng and I 
shared a blanket. When he turned over I was in the cold. 
When I turned over I pulled the blanket off him and he 
objected. He was the Colonel. It was not a good arrange 
ment. I was glad when morning came. 

Meanwhile General Lyttelton and his riflemen had dug 
themselves deeply in upon their ridge. They expected to be 
heavily shelled at daylight, and they were not disappointed. 
However, they had burrowed so well that they endured the 
whole day's bombardment and beat off several rifle attacks 
with less than two hundred casualties. We watched them all 
day in our bivouac with a composure tempered only by the 
thought that the hour for our gallop would soon come. It 
never came. That very night Lyttelton's brigade was with 
drawn across the river. The pontoon bridges were lifted, and 
our whole army, having lost about 500 men, marched by 
leisurely stages back to the camps at Chieveley and Frere 
whence we had started to relieve Ladysmith nearly a month 
before. Meanwhile the garrison was on starvation rations 
and was fast devouring its horses and mules. Sir George 
White declared that he could hold out for another six weeks. 
He had however no longer any mobility to co-operate with 
us. He could just sit still and starve as slowly as possible. 
The outlook was therefore bleak. 




IN spite of the vexatious course of the war, the two months* 
fighting for the relief of Ladysmith make one of the 
most happy memories of my life. Although our irregular 
cavalry brigade was engaged with the enemy on at least three 
days out of five, our losses except in Thorneycroft's regiment 
at Spion Kop were never severe. We had one skirmish after 
another with casualties running from half a dozen to a score. 
I saw all there was to see. Day after day we rode out in the 
early morning on one flank or another and played about with 
the Boers, galloped around or clambered up the rocky hills, 
caught glimpses of darting, fleeting horsemen in the dis 
tance, heard a few bullets whistle, had a few careful shots 
and came safe home to a good dinner and cheery, keenly- 
intelligent companions. Meanwhile I dispatched a continual 
stream of letters and cables to The Morning Post, and 
learned from them that all I wrote commanded a wide and 
influential public. I knew all the generals and other swells, 
had access to everyone, and was everywhere well received. 
We lived in great comfort in the open air, with cool nights 
and bright sunshine, with plenty of meat, chickens and beer. 
The excellent Natal newspapers often got into the firing 
line about noon and always awaited us on our return in the 
evening. One lived entirely in the present with something 
happening all the time. Care-free, no regrets for the past, no 
fears for the future 5 no expense, no duns, no complications, 
and all the time my salary was safely piling up at home! 
When a prisoner I had thought it my duty to write from 
Pretoria to The Morning Post releasing them from their 
contract, as it seemed they would get no more value out of 
me. They did not accept my offer; but before I knew this, 



I was already free. My relations with them continued to be 
of the best 5 and one could not serve better employers. 

It was a great joy to me to have my brother Jack with 
me, and I looked forward to showing him round and doing 
for him the honours of war. This pleasure was however soon 
cut short. On February 12 we made a reconnaissance 6 or 
7 miles to the east of the railway line and occupied for some 
hours a large wooded eminence known to the army as Hus 
sar Hill. Buller and the Headquarters staff, it seemed, 
wished to examine this ground. Using our whole brigade we 
drove away the Boer pickets and patrols, set up an outpost 
line of our own, and enabled the general to see what he 
wanted. As the morning passed, the rifle fire became more 
lively, and when the time came to go home the Boers fol 
lowed on our tail and we had some loss in disengaging our 

After quitting Hussar Hill and putting at a gallop a mile 
between us and the enemy, our squadrons reined into a walk 
and rode slowly homewards up a long smooth grass slope, 
I was by now a fairly experienced young officer and I could 
often feel danger impending from this quarter or from that, 
as you might feel a light breeze on your cheek or neck. 
When one rode for instance within rifle shot of some hill or 
water-course about which we did not know enough, I used 
to feel a draughty sensation. On this occasion as I looked 
back over my shoulder from time to time at Hussar Hill or 
surveyed the large brown masses of our rearmost squadrons 
riding so placidly home across the rolling veldt, I remarked 
to my companion, *We are still much too near those fellows.' 
The words were hardly out of my mouth when a shot rang 
out, followed by the rattle of magazine fire from two or 
three hundred Mauser rifles. A hail of bullets whistled 
among our squadrons, emptying a few saddles and bringing 
down a few horses. Instinctively our whole cavalcade spread 
out into open order and scampered over the crest now nearly 
two hundred yards away. Here we leapt off our horses, 



which were hurried into cover, threw ourselves on the grass, 
and returned the fire with an answering roar and rattle. 

If the Boers had been a little quicker and had caught us 
a quarter of a mile farther back we should have paid dearly 
for the liberty we had taken: but the range was now over 
2,000 yards $ we were prone, almost as invisible as the en 
emy, and very little harm was done. Jack was lying by my 
side. All of a sudden he jumped and wriggled back a yard 
or two from the line. He had been shot in the calf, in this 
his very first skirmish, by a bullet which must have passed 
uncommonly near his head. I helped him from the firing 
line and saw him into an ambulance. The fusillade soon 
ceased and I rode on to the field hospital to make sure he 
was properly treated. The British army doctors were in those 
days very jealous of their military rank 5 so I saluted the 
surgeon, addressed him as 'Major,' had a few words with 
him about the skirmish, and then mentioned my brother's 
wound. The gallant doctor was in the best of tempers, prom 
ised chloroform, no pain, and every attention, and was cer 
tainly as good as his word. 

But now here was a curious coincidence. While I had been 
busy in South Africa my mother had not been idle at home. 
She had raised a fund, captivated an American millionaire, 
obtained a ship, equipped it as a hospital with a full staff of 
nurses and every comfort. After a stormy voyage she had 
arrived at Durban and eagerly awaited a consignment of 
wounded. She received her younger son as the very first cas 
ualty treated on board the hospital ship Maine. I took a few 
days' leave to go and see her, and lived on board as on a 
yacht. So here we were all happily reunited after six months 
of varied experiences. The greatest swell in Durban was 
Captain Percy Scott, commander of the armoured cruiser 
Terrible. He lavished his courtesies upon us and showed us 
'all the wonders of his vessel; he .named the 4.7-inch gun 
that he had mounted on a railway truck after my mother, 
and even eventually organised a visit for her to the front to 



see it fire. Altogether there was an air of grace and amenity 
about this war singularly lacking fifteen years later on the 
Western Front. 

Buller now began his fourth attempt to relieve Lady- 
smith. The garrison was in dire straits, and for all of us, 
relievers and besieged, it was kill or cure. The enemy's main 
positions were upon the bluffs and heights along the Tugela. 1 
After flowing under the broken railway bridge at Colenso, 
the river takes a deep bend towards Ladysmith. The tongue 
of land encircled by the river included on our left (as we 
faced the enemy) Hlangwane Hill, assaulted by the South 
African Light Horse on December 155 in the centre, a long 
grassy plateau called the Green Hill, and on the far right, 
two densely-wooded and mountainous ridges named respec 
tively Cingolo and Monte Cristo. Thus the Boer right had 
the river in its front and their left and centre had the river 
in its rear. It was now decided to make a wide turning move 
ment, and try to surprise and seize these commanding ridges 
which constituted the true left flank of the enemy. If we 
were successful two infantry divisions sustained by all the 
artillery would assault the central plateau, and thence by a 
continued right-handed attack capture Hlangwane Hill it 
self. The conquest of this hill would render the Boer posi 
tions around Colenso untenable, and would open the pas 
sage of the river. This was a sound and indeed fairly obvious 
plan and there was no reason why it should not have been 
followed from the very beginning. Buller had not happened 
to think of it before. At Colenso, although assured that 
Hlangwane was on his side of the river, he had not believed 
it. He only gradually accepted the fact. That was all. 

On the 1 5th the whole army marched from its camps 
along the railway to Hussar Hill and deployed for attack. 
Everything however depended upon our being able to cap 
ture Cingolo and Monte Cristo. This task was entrusted to 
Colonel Byng and our regiment, supported by an infantry 

1 See map on page 325. 


brigade. It proved surprisingly easy. We marched by devious 
paths through the night and at dawn on the i8th climbed 
the southern slopes of Cingolo. We surprised and drove in 
the handful of Boers who alone were watching these key 
positions. During that day and the next in conjunction with 
the infantry we chased them off Cingolo, across the nek or 
saddle which joined the two ridges, and became masters of 
the whole of Monte Cristo. From this commanding height 
we overlooked all the Boer positions beyond the Tugela, and 
saw Ladysmith lying at our feet only six miles away. Mean 
while the main infantry and artillery attack on the sand-bag 
redoubts and entrenchments of the Green Hills had been 
entirely successful. The enemy, handled properly by envel 
opment and resolute attack, and disquieted by having a river 
in his rear, made but little resistance. By the night of the 
2Oth the whole of the Boer positions south of the Tugela, 
including the rugged hill of Hlangwane, were in the British 
grip. The Boers evacuated Colenso and everywhere with 
drew to their main line of defence across the river. So far so 

We had only to continue this right-handed movement to 
succeed, for Monte Cristo actually dominated the Boer 
trenches at Barton's Hill beyond the river; and Barton's 
Hill, if taken, exposed the neighbouring eminence, and so 
on. But now Buller, lirged it was said by Warren, made a 
mistake difficult to pardon after all the schooling he had re 
ceived at the expense of his troops. Throwing a pontoon 
bridge near Colenso, he drew in his right, abandoned the 
commanding position, and began to advance by his left, 
along the railway line. In the course of the next two days 
he got his army thoroughly clumped-up in the maze of hills 
and spurs beyond Colenso. In these unfavourable conditions, 
without any turning movement, he assaulted the long-pre 
pared, deeply-entrenched Boer position before Pieters. The 
purblind viciousness of these manoeuvres was apparent to 
many. When I talked on the night of the 22nd with a high 



officer on the Headquarters 5 Staff, afterwards well known as 
Colonel Repington, he said bluntly, <I don't like the situa 
tion. We have come down off our high ground. We have 
taken all the big guns off the big hills. We are getting our 
selves cramped among these kopjes in the valley of the Tu- 
gela. It will be like being in the Coliseum and shot at by 
every row of seats!' So indeed it proved. The Boers, who 
had despaired of resisting our wide turning movement, and 
many of whom had already begun to trek northwards, re 
turned in large numbers when they saw the British army 
once again thrusting its head obstinately into a trap. 

Heavy confused fighting with many casualties among the 
low kopjes by the Tugela occupied the night of the 22nd/ 
23rd. The assault of the Pieters position could not begin till 
the next evening. As the cavalry could play no part, I rode 
across the river and worked my way forward to a rocky spur 
where I found General Lyttelton 1 crouching behind a stone 
watching the fight. He was quite alone, and seemed glad to 
see me. The infantry, General Hart's Irish Brigade leading, 
filed and wound along the railway line, losing a lot of men 
at exposed points and gradually completing their deploy 
ment for their left-handed assault. The Pieters position 
consisted of three rounded peaks easily attackable from right 
to left, and probably impregnable from left to right. It was 
four o'clock when the Irish Brigade began to toil up the steep 
sides of what is now called Inniskilling Hill, and sunset ap 
proached before the assault was delivered by the Inniskilling 
and Dublin Fusiliers. The spectacle was tragic. Through our 
glasses we could see the Boers' heads and slouch hats in 
miniature silhouette, wreathed and obscured by shell-bursts, 
against the evening sky. Up the bare grassy slopes slowly 
climbed the brown figures and glinting bayonets of the Irish 
men, and the rattle of intense musketry drummed in our 
ears. The climbing figures dwindled j they ceased to move} 
they vanished into the darkening hillside. Out of twelve 

1 Afterwards Sir Neville Lyttelton. 



hundred men who assaulted, both colonels, three majors, 
twenty officers and six hundred soldiers had fallen, killed or 
wounded. The repulse was complete. 

Sir Redvers Buller now allowed himself to be persuaded 
to resume; the right-handed movement, and to deploy again 
upon a widely-extended front. It took three days to extricate 
the army from the tangle into which he had so needlessly 
plunged it. For two of these days hundreds of wounded 
lying on Inniskilling Hill suffered a cruel ordeal. The plight 
of these poor men between the firing lines without aid or 
water, waving pitiful strips of linen in mute appeal, was hard 
to witness. On the 26th Buller sought an armistice. The 
Boers refused a formal truce, but invited doctors and stretch 
er-bearers to come without fear and collect the wounded and 
bury the dead. At nightfall, this task being completed, firing 
was resumed. 

February 27 was the anniversary of Majuba, and on this 
day the Natal army delivered its final attack. All the big 
guns were now back again on the big hills, and the Brigades, 
having passed the river by the Boer bridge which was un 
damaged, attacked the Boer position from the right. First 
Barton's Hill was stormed. This drew with it the capture of 
Railway Hill 5 and lastly the dreaded position of the In 
niskilling Hill, already half turned and to some extent com 
manded, was carried by the bayonet. The last row of hills 
between us and Ladysmith had fallen. Mounting in haste 
we galloped to the river, hoping to pursue. The Commander- 
in-Chief met us at the bridge and sternly ordered us back. 
'Damn pursuit P were said to be the historic words he ut 
tered on this occasion. As one might say 'Damn reward for 
sacrifices! Damn the recovery of debts overdue! Damn the 
prize which eases future struggles! 5 

The next morning, advancing in leisurely fashion, we 
crossed the river, wended up and across the battle-scarred 
heights, and debouched upon the open plain which led to 
Ladysmith six miles away. The Boers were in full retreat j 



the shears were up over their big gun on Bulwana Hill, and 
the dust of the wagon-trains trekking northward rose from 
many quarters of the horizon. The order 'Damn pursuit! 3 
still held. It was freely said that the Commander-in-Chief 
had remarked 'Better leave them alone now they are going 
off.' All day we chafed and fumed, and it was not until eve- 


ning that two squadrons of the S.A.L.H. were allowed to 
brush through the crumbling rearguards and ride into Lady- 
smith. I rode with these two squadrons, and galloped across 
the scrub-dotted plain, fired at only by a couple of Boer 
guns. Suddenly from the brushwood up rose gaunt figures 
waving hands of welcome. On we pressed, and at the head 
of a battered street of tin-roofed houses met Sir George 


White on horseback, faultlessly attired. Then we all rode to 
gether into the long beleaguered, almost starved-out, Lady- 
smith. It was a thrilling moment. 

I dined with the Headquarters staff that night. Ian Ham 
ilton, Rawlinson, Hedworth Lambton, were warm in their 
welcome. Jealously preserved bottles of champagne were un 
corked. I looked for horseflesh, but the last trek-ox had been 
slain in honour of the occasion. Our pallid and emaciated 
hosts showed subdued contentment. But having travelled so 
far and by such rough and devious routes, I rejoiced to be in 
Ladysmith at last. 




T ORD ROBERTS had been a great friend of my father's. 
*-' Lord Randolph Churchill had insisted as Secretary of 
State for India in 1885 in placing him at the head of the 
Indian Army, thrusting on one side for this purpose the 
claims of Lord Wolseley himself. They had continued 
friends until my father's death ten years later 5 and I as a 
child had often met the General and could pride myself on 
several fascinating conversations with him. He was always 
very kind to youth, tolerant of its precocity and exuberance, 
and gifted naturally with every art that could captivate its 
allegiance. I certainly felt as a young officer that here at any 
rate in the higher ranks of the Army was an august friend 
upon whose countenance I could rely. 

While we in Natal were rejoicing in a success all the 
sweeter for so many disappointments, the news had already 
arrived that Roberts advancing northwards from the Cape 
Colony into the Orange Free State, had relieved Kimberley 
and had surrounded and captured the Boer Army under 
Cronje in the considerable fighting of Paardeberg. It seemed 
as if by a wave of the wand the whole war situation had been 
transformed and the black week of November 1899 had 
been replaced by the universal successes of February 1900. 
All this dramatic change in the main aspect of the war re 
dounded in the public mind to the credit of Lord Roberts. 
This wonderful little man, it was said, had suddenly ap 
peared upon the scene; and as if by enchantment, the clouds 
had rolled away and the sun shone once again brightly on 
the British armies in every part of the immense sub-conti 


In consequence of their reverses the Boers abandoned the 
invasion of Natal. They withdrew with their usual extraordi 
nary celerity through the Drakensbergs back into their own 
territory. Dragging their heavy guns with them and all their 
stores, they melted away in the course of a fortnight and 
abandoned the whole of the colony of Natal to the Imperial 
troops. It was evident that a long delay would of necessity 
have to intervene before these ponderous forces never more 
ponderous than under Buller could be set in motion, repair 
the damaged railway, transport their immense quantities of 
supplies, and cover the 150 miles which separated Lady- 
smith from the Transvaal frontiers. 

I now became impatient to get into the decisive and main 
theatre of the war. On the free and easy footing which had 
been accorded me by the Natal Army authorities since my 
escape from Pretoria, it was not difficult for me to obtain 
indefinite , leave of absence from the South African Light 
Horse, and without resigning my commission to transfer my 
activities as a correspondent to Lord Roberts's army, at that 
time in occupation of Bloemfontein. I packed my kit-bag, 
descended the Natal Railway, sailed from Durban to Port 
Elizabeth, traversed the railways of the Cape Colony, and 
arrived in due course at the sumptuous Mount Nelson Hotel 
at Cape Town. Meanwhile the Morning Post, who regarded 
me as their principal correspondent, made the necessary ap 
plication for me to be accredited to Lord Roberta's army. I 
Expected the formalities would take several days, and these 
I passed very pleasantly interviewing the leading South 
African and Dutch politicians in the South African capital. 

Hitherto I had been regarded as a Jingo bent upon the 
ruthless prosecution of the war, and was therefore vilified 
by the pro-Boers. I was now to get into trouble with the 
Tories. The evacuation of Natal by the invaders exposed all 
those who had joined, aided or sympathised with them to 
retribution. A wave of indignation swept through the colony. 



The first thoughts of the British Government on the other 
hand now that they had won were to let bygones be bygones. 
An Under Secretary, Lord Wolverton, was allowed to make 
a speech in this sense. All my instincts acclaimed this mag 
nanimity. On March 24 I had telegraphed from Ladysmith: 

In spite of the feelings of the loyal colonists who have 
fought so gallantly for the Empire, I earnestly hope and 
urge that a generous and forgiving policy be followed. If 
the military operations are prosecuted furiously and tirelessly 
there will be neither necessity nor excuse for giving rebels 
who surrender a 'lesson.' The wise and right course is to beat 
down all who resist, even to the last man, but not to with 
hold forgiveness and even friendship from any who wish to 
surrender. The Dutch farmers who have joined the enemy 
are only traitors in the legal sense. That they obeyed the 
natural instinct of their blood to join the men of their own 
race, though no justification, is an excuse. Certainly their 
conduct is morally less reprehensible than that of English 
men who are regular burghers of the Republics, and who are 
fighting as fiercely as proper belligerents against their own 

Yet even these Englishmen would deserve some tolerance 
were they not legally protected by their citizenship. The 
Dutch traitor is less black than the renegade British-born 
burgher, but both are the results of our own mistakes and 
crimes in Africa in former years. On purely practical grounds 
it is most important to differentiate between rebels who want 
to surrender and rebels who are caught fighting. Every in 
fluence should be brought to bear to weaken the enemy and 
make him submit. On the one hand are mighty armies ad 
vancing irresistibly, slaying and smiting with all the fearful 
engines of war j on the other, the quiet farm with wife and 
children safe under the protection of a government as merci 
ful as it is strong. The policy which will hold these two pic 
tures ever before the eyes of the Republican soldiers is truly 



'thorough/ and therein lies the shortest road to c peace with 

This message was very ill received in England. A vin 
dictive spirit, unhelpful but not unnatural, ruled. The Gov 
ernment had rallied to the nation; the Under Secretary had 
been suppressed; and I bore the brunt of Conservative anger. 
Even the Morning Post, while printing my messages, sor 
rowfully disagreed with my view. The Natal newspapers 
were loud-voiced in condemnation. I replied that it was not 
the first time that victorious gladiators had been surprised to 
see thumbs turned down in the Imperial box. 

Sir Alfred Milner was far more understanding, and spoke 
to me with kindliness and comprehension. His A.D.C. the 
Duke of Westminster, had organised a pack of hounds for 
his chief's diversion and exercise. We hunted jackal beneath 
Table Mountain, and lunched after a jolly gallop sitting 
among the scrub. 

The High Commissioner said, C I thought they would be 
upset, especially in Natal, by your message when I saw it. 
Of course all these people have got to live together. They 
must forgive and forget, and make a common country. But 
now passions are running too high. People who have had 
their friends or relations killed, or whose homes have been 
invaded, will not hear of clemency till they calm down. I 
understand your feelings, but it does no good to express 
them now.' I was impressed by hearing these calm, detached, 
broad-minded opinions from the lips of one so widely por 
trayed as the embodiment of rigid uncompromising subjuga 
tion. In the event, for all the fierce words, the treatment 
accorded to rebels and traitors by the British Government 
was indulgent in the extreme. 

Here I must confess that all through my life I have found 
myself, in disagreement alternately with both the historic 
English parties. I have always urged fighting wars and other 
contentions with might and main till overwhelming victory, 



and then offering the hand of friendship to the vanquished. 
Thus I have always been against the Pacifists during the 
quarrel, and against the Jingoes at its close. Many years 
after this South African incident, Lord Birkenhead men 
tioned to me a Latin quotation which seems to embody this 
idea extremely well. 'Parcere subjectis et delellare swperbosj 
which he translated finely 'Spare the conquered and war 
down the proud.' I seem to have come very near achieving 
this thought by my own untutored reflections. The Romans 
have often forestalled many of my best ideas, and I must 
concede to them the patent rights in this maxim. Never in 
deed was it more apt than in South Africa. Wherever we 
departed from it, we suffered; wherever we followed it, we 

And not only in South Africa. I thought we ought to have 
conquered the Irish and then given them Home Rule: that 
we ought to have starved out the Germans, and then re- 
victualled their country ; and that after smashing the Gen 
eral Strike, we should have met the grievances of the miners. 
I always get into trouble because so few people take this line. 
I was once asked to devise an inscription for a monument in 
France. I wrote, <In war, Resolution. In defeat, Defiance. 
In victory, Magnanimity. In peace, Goodwill.' The inscrip 
tion was not accepted. It is all the fault of the human brain 
being made in two lobes, only one of which does any think 
ing, so that we are all right-handed or left-handed; whereas 
if we were properly constructed we should use our right and 
left hands with equal force and skill according to circum 
stances. As it is, those who can win a war well can rarely 
make a good peace, and those who could make a good peace 
would never have won the war. It would perhaps be press 
ing the argument too far to suggest that I could do both. 


After several days had passed agreeably at Cape Town I 
began to wonder why no pass had reached me to proceed to 


Bloemfontein. When more than a week had elapsed without 
any response to the regular application which had been made, 
I realised that some obstacle had arisen. I could not imagine 
what this obstacle could be. In all my writings from Natal 
I had laboured ceaselessly to maintain confidence at home 
and put the best appearance possible upon the many reverses 
and 'regrettable incidents' which had marked the operations 
in Natal. War Correspondents were considerable people in 
those days of small wars, and I was at that time one of the 
best-known writers among them and serving one of the most 
influential newspapers. I racked my brain and searched my 
conscience to discover any reasonable cause for the now ob 
vious obstruction with which I was confronted. 

Luckily I had at Lord Roberts's Headquarters two good 
and powerful friends. He had sent for Ian Hamilton, his 
former Aide-de-Camp and trusted friend, as soon as Lady- 
smith was relieved. General Nicholson c Old Nick' of Lock- 
hart's Staff in Tirah held a high position at Headquarters. 
These two had been to Roberts through many years of peace 
and war a part of what Marshal Foch in later years was ac 
customed to describe as 'ma famille militaire.' Both were in 
the highest favour and had at all times the freest access to 
the Commander-in-Chief. In spite of certain differences of 
age and rank, I could count on them almost upon a footing 
of equal friendship. To these officers therefore I had re 
course. They informed me by telegram that the obstacle was 
none other than the Commander-in-Chief himself. Lord 
Kitchener, it appeared, had been offended by some passages 
in The River War, and Lord Roberts felt that it might be 
resented by his Chief of Staff if I were attached as corre 
spondent to the main portion of the army. But there was, 
they said, an additional cause of offence which had very seri 
ously affected Lord Roberts's mind. In a letter to the Morn 
ing Post written from Natal, I had criticised severely the 
inadequacy of a sermon preached to the troops on the eve 
of battle by a Church of England Army Chaplain. The Com- 



mander-in-Chief regarded this as a very unjust reflection on 
the spiritual ministrations of these devoted officials. He was, 
my friends said, 'extremely stiff.' They were trying their 
best to soften him and believed that in a few days they would 
succeed. Meanwhile there was nothing for it but to wait. 

I now recalled very clearly the incident of the Army 
Chaplain's sermon and what I had written about it. It was 
the Sunday between Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz. The men 
of a whole brigade, expecting to be seriously engaged on the 
next day or the day after, had gathered for Service in a little 
grassy valley near the Tugela and just out of gunshot of the 
enemy's lines. At this moment when all hearts, even the 
most indifferent, were especially apt to receive the consola 
tions of religion, and when a fine appeal might have carried 
its message to deep and permanent results, we had been 
treated to a ridiculous discourse on the peculiar and uncon 
vincing tactics by which the Israelites were said to have pro 
cured the downfall of the walls of Jericho. My comment, 
caustic perhaps, but surely not undeserved, had been: *As I 
listened to these foolish sentences I thought of the gallant 
and venerable figure of Father Brindle in the Omdurman 
campaign, 1 and wondered whether Rome would again seize 
the opportunity which Canterbury disdained.' These stric 
tures had, it appeared, caused commotion in the Established 
Church. Great indignation had been expressed, and follow 
ing thereupon had been a veritable crusade. Several of the 
most eloquent divines, vacating their pulpits, had volun 
teered for the Front and were at this moment swiftly jour 
neying to South Africa to bring a needed reinforcement to 
the well-meant exertions of the Army Chaplains Corps. But 
though the result had been so effective and as we may trust 
beneficent, the cause remained an offence. Lord Roberts, a 
deeply religious man, all his life a soldier, felt that the Mili 
tary Chaplains' Department had suffered unmerited asper- 

*A well-known and honoured figure in the British Army in this period; 
and afterwards Bishop of Nottingham. 



sion, and the mere fact that outside assistance had now been 
proffered only seemed to aggravate the sting. In these cir 
cumstances my prospects for several days seemed very 
gloomy, and I languished disconsolately amid the Capuan 
delights of the Mount Nelson Hotel. 

However, in the end my friends prevailed. My pass was 
granted and I was free to proceed to Bloemf ontein, with the 
proviso however that before taking up my duties as War 
Correspondent I should receive an admonition from the Mil 
itary Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief against reckless 
and uncharitable criticism. This was good enough for me, 
and I started on the long railway journey that same night. 
I was welcomed very cordially by my two distinguished 
friends, whose influence and authority were such as to bear 
down all opposition from subordinates. I received in due 
course, and with pious resignation, the lecture of the Mili 
tary Secretary, and from that moment had entire liberty to 
move where I would, and, subject to mild censorship, write 
what I chose. But Lord Roberts maintained an air of in 
flexible aloofness. Although he knew that every day I was 
with people who were his closest assistants and friends, and 
although he knew that I knew how much my activities were 
a subject of discussion at his table even amid the press of 
great events, he never received me nor offered the slightest 
sign of recognition. When one morning in the market place 
at Bloemfontein amid a crowd of officers I suddenly found 
myself quite unexpectedly within a few yards of him, he 
acknowledged my salute only as that of a stranger. 

There was so much interest and excitement in everyday 
life, that there was little time to worry unduly about the 
displeasure even of so great a personage and so honoured 
a friend. Equipped by the Morning Post on a munificent 
scale with whatever good horses and transport were neces- 
sary r I moved rapidly this way and that from column to 
column, wherever there was a chance of fighting. Riding 
sometimes quite alone across wide stretches of doubtful coun- 



try, I would arrive at the rear-guard of a British column, 
actually lapped about by the enemy in the enormous plains, 
stay with them for three or four days if the General was 
well disposed, and then dart back across a landscape charged 
with silent menace, to keep up a continuous stream of letters 
and telegrams to my newspaper. 

After the relief of Ladysmith and their defeat in the Free 
State, many of the Boers thought the war was over and made 
haste to return to their farms. The Republics sought peace 
by negotiation, observing quaintly that as the British had 
c now recovered their prestige' this should be possible. Of 
course no one would entertain such an idea. The Imperial 
Government pointed to the injuries they had received from 
the Boer invasions, and sternly replied that they would make 
known their terms for the future settlement of South Africa 
from Pretoria. Meanwhile thousands of Boers in the Free 
State had returned to their homes and taken an oath of neu 
trality. Had it been possible for Lord Roberts to continue 
his advance without delay to Pretoria, it is possible that all 
resistance, at any rate south of the Vaal River, would have 
come to an end. But the army must first gather supplies. 
The principal railway bridges had been destroyed, and their 
repair by temporary structures involved reduced freights. 
The daily supply of the army drew so heavily upon the traf 
fic, that supplies only accumulated at the rate of one day in 
four. It was evident therefore that several weeks must pass 
before the advance could be resumed. Meanwhile the reso 
lute leaders of the Boers pulled themselves together and 
embarked upon a second effort, which though made with 
smaller resources, was far more prolonged and costly to us 
than their original invasion. The period of partisan warfare 
had begun. The first step was to recall to the commandos 
the burghers who had precipitately made separate peace for 
themselves. By threats and violence, oaths of neutrality not 
withstanding, thousands of these were again forced to take 
up arms. The British denounced this treacherous behaviour, 



and although no one was executed for violating his oath, 
a new element of bitterness henceforward mingled in the 

I learned that the war so far had not been kind to General 
Brabazon. He had come out in charge of a regular cavalry 
brigade, but in the waiting, wearing operations before Coles- 
burg he had fallen out with General French. French was the 
younger and more forceful personality. Old 'Brab' did not 
find it easy to adapt himself to the new conditions of war. 
He thought of 'how we did it in Afganistan in '78, or at 
Suakim in '84,' when French was only a subaltern. But 
French was now his Commanding General, and the lessons 
of 1878 and 1884 were obsolete and fading memories. To 
these inconveniences Brabazon added the dangers of a free 
and mocking tongue. His comments, not only on French's 
tactics but on his youthful morals, were recounted in a jaunty 
vein. Tales were told to Headquarters. French struck back. 
Brabazon lost his regular brigade and emerged at the head 
of the ten thousand Imperial Yeomanry now gradually ar 
riving in South Africa. This looked at first like promotion 
and was so represented to Brabazon. It proved to be a veri 
table 'Irishman's rise. 7 The ten thousand, yeomanry arrived 
only to be dispersed over the whole theatre of war. One 
single brigade of these despised amateurs was all my poor 
friend could retain. With these he was now working in the 
region south-east of Bloemfontein. I resolved to join him. 

I put my horses and wagon in a truck and trained south 
to Edenburg. I trekked thence through a disturbed district 
in drenching rain on the morning of April 17. I travelled 
prosperously, and on the night of the I9th overtook the 
British column eleven miles from Dewetsdorp. It was the 
8th Division, the last division of our regular army scraped 
together from our fortresses all over the Empire. It was 
commanded by Sir Leslie Rundle, later unkindly nicknamed 
'Sir Leisurely Trundle,' whom I had known up the Nile. 
Brabazon's brigade was scouting on ahead. Rundle was affa- 



ble and hospitable; and early the next morning I rode on 
to join Brabazon. He was delighted to see me, told me his 
grievances, and entertained me vastly with stories and criti 
cisms of French, as well as of the war and the world in gen 
eral. We abode together for some days. 

Very soon we began to approach the hills around Dewets- 
dorp. The distant patter of musketry broke the silence, and 
our patrols came scurrying back. Now ensued some of the 
most comical operations I have ever witnessed. Brabazon's 
yeomanry soon occupied the nearest hills, and a brisk skir 
mish developed with the Boers, who were apparently in 
some strength on the grass ridges before the town. Three or 
four enemy guns began to fire. Word was sent back to Run- 
die, and in the evening he arrived with his two brigades* I 
was admitted to the council. Brabazon was all for battle. All 
preparations were made for a regular attack next day. How 
ever, very early in the morning the leading Brigadier, Sir 
Herbert Chermside, made representations to our chief com 
mander upon the gravity of the enterprise. In 1878 twen 
ty-two years before Chermside had been in the Russo- 
Turkish war. He therefore spoke with high authority. He 
declared that the Boers now held positions as formidable as 
those of Plevna, and that it would be imprudent without 
gathering every man and gun to launch an assault which 
might cost thousands of lives. It was therefore resolved to 
await the arrival of a third brigade under General Barr- 
Campbell, containing two battalions of Guards, who were 
already on the march from the railway and should arrive by 
night. So we passed a pleasant day skirmishing with the 
Boers, and as soon as evening fell another long column of 
infantry arrived. We now had nearly eleven thousand men 
and eighteen guns. All the dispositions were made for battle 
the next day. On the same evening however forty men of 
the Berkshire regiment, going out in the darkness to fetch 
water from a handy spring, unluckily missed their way and 
walked into the Boer lines instead of our own. This incident 



produced a sinister impression upon our Commander, and 
he telegraphed to Lord Roberts for orders. All the Generals 
at this time had received the most severe warnings against 
incurring casualties. Frontal attacks were virtually prohib 
ited. Everything was to be done by kindness and manoeuvre: 
instructions admirable in theory, paralysing in effect! 

At daybreak when the whole force was drawn up for at 
tack and our yeomanry awaited the signal to ride round the 
enemy's left flank, suddenly there arrived a staff officer with 
the news that the battle was again put off for that day at 
least. This was too much for Brabazon. He rode towards me 
wagging his head, and with a droll expression emitted sud 
denly in a loud voice and before everyone the words c Bob 
Acres. 3 Whether the staff officer was so spiteful as to repeat 
this indiscretion, I cannot tell. 

To appease Brabazon and also to do something or other, 
the cavalry were allowed to reconnoitre and test the left of 
the enemy's so-called Tlevna.' And here I had a most ex 
citing adventure. 

Lest my memory should embroider the tale, I transcribe 
the words I wrote that same evening. 

The brigade, which included the Mounted Infantry, and 
was about a thousand strong, moved southward behind the 
outpost line, and making a rapid and wide circuit, soon came 
on the enemy's left flank. . . . The ground fell steeply to 
wards a flat basin, from the middle of which rose a most 
prominent and peculiar kopje. Invisible behind this was 
Dewetsdorp. Round it stood Boers, some mounted, some on 
foot, to the number of about two hundred. 

Our rapid advance, almost into the heart of their posi 
tion, had disturbed and alarmed them. They were doubtful 
whether this was reconnaissance or actual attack. They de 
termined to make certain by making an attempt to outflank 
the outflanking Cavalry 5 and no sooner had our long-range 
rifle fire compelled them to take cover behind the hill than 



a new force, as it seemed, of two hundred rode into the open, 
and passing across our front at a distance of perhaps 2,000 
yards, made for a white stone kopje on our right. 

Angus McNeill, who had commanded Montmorency's 
Scouts since that officer had been killed, ran up to the Gen 
eral: 'Sir, may we head them off? I think we can just do it.' 
The scouts pricked up their ears. The General reflected. 'All 
right, 3 he said, 'you may try.' 

'Mount, mount, mount, the scouts!' cried their impetuous 
officer, scrambling into his saddle. Then, to me, 'Come with 
us, we'll give you a show now first-class.' 

A few days before, in an unguarded moment, I had prom 
ised to follow the fortunes of the scouts for a day. I looked 
at the Boers: they were nearer to the white stone kopje than 
we, but on the other hand they had the hill to climb, and 
were probably worse mounted. It might be done, and if it 
were done I thought of the affair of Acton Homes how 
dearly they would have to pay in that open plain. So, in the 
interests of the Morning Post, I got on my horse and we all 
started forty or fifty scouts, McNeill and I, as fast as we 
could, by hard spurring, make the horses go. 

It was from the very beginning a race, and recognised as 
such by both sides. As we converged I saw the five leading 
Boers, better mounted than their comrades, outpacing the 
others in a desperate resolve to secure the coign of vantage. 
I said, 'We can't do it'$ but no one would admit defeat or 
leave the matter undecided. The rest is exceedingly simple. 

We arrived at a wire fence 100 yards to be accurate, 
1 20 yards from the crest of the kopje, dismounted, and, 
cutting the wire, were about to seize the precious rocks when 
as I had seen them in the railway cutting at Frere, grim, 
hairy, and terrible the heads and shoulders of a dozen 
Boers appeared 5 and how many more must be close behind 

There was a queer, almost inexplicable, pause, or perhaps 
there was no pause at all 5 but I seem to remember much 



happening. First the Boers one fellow with a long, droop 
ing, black beard, and a chocolate-coloured coat, another with 
a red scarf round his neck. Two scouts cutting the wire fence 
stolidly. One man taking aim across his horse, and McNeilPs 
voice, quite steady: 'Too late 5 back to the other kopje. Gal 

Then the musketry crashed out, and the 'swish' and c whirr' 
of the bullets filled the air. I put my foot in the stirrup. 
The horse, terrified at the firing, plunged wildly. I tried to 
spring into the saddle; it turned under the animal's belly. 
He broke away, and galloped madly away. Most of the 
scouts were already 200 yards off. I was alone, dismounted, 
within the closest range, and a mile at least from cover of 
any kind. 

One consolation I had my pistol. I could not be hunted 
down unarmed in the open .as I had been before. But a dis 
abling wound was the brightest prospect. I turned, and, for 
the second time in this war, ran for my life on foot from the 
Boer marksmen, and I thought to myself, 'Here at last I 
take it.' Suddenly, as I ran, I saw a scout. He came from the 
left, across my front ; a tall man, with skull and crossbones 
badge, and on a pale horse. Death in Revelation, but life to 

I shouted to him as he passed: 'Give me a stirrup.' To 
my surprise he stopped at once. 'Yes. Get up,' he said 
shortly. I ran to him, did not bungle in the business of 
mounting, and in a moment found myself behind him on 
the saddle. 

Then we rode. I put my arms round him to catch a grip 
of the mane. My hand became soaked with blood. The 
horse was hard hit; but, gallant beast, he extended himself 
nobly. The pursuing bullets piped and whistled for the 
range was growing longer overhead. 

'Don't be frightened,' said my rescuer; 'they won't hit 
you.' Then, as I did not reply, 'My poor horse, oh, my 

poor horse j shot with an explosive bullet. The devils! 

But their hour will come. Oh, my poor liorse!' 



I said, 'Never mind, you've saved my life.' *Ah,' he re 
joined, 'but it's the horse Pm thinking about.' That was the 
whole of our conversation. 1 

Judging from the number of bullets I heard I did not 
expect to be hit after the first 500 yards were covered, for 
a galloping horse is a difficult target, and the Boers were 
breathless and excited. But it was with a feeling of relief that 
I turned the corner of the further kopje and found I had 
thrown double sixes again. 

When we returned to camp we learned that Lord Roberts, 
supposing that Rundle was 'held up by powerful forces', had 
set in motion from Bloemfontein another infantry division, 
and the whole of French's three brigades of cavalry in a wide 
sweeping movement against Dewetsdorp from the north 
west. In two days this combination was complete, and the 
2,500 Boers who for nearly ten days had wasted the energy 
of at least ten times their number of British troops slipped 
quietly away to the northward taking their prisoners with 
them. It was evident that the guerrilla phase would present 
a problem of its own. 

I now attached myself to French's cavalry division and 
marched north with them. Here I found myself in a none 
too friendly atmosphere. It appeared that like a good many 
other Generals at this time, French disapproved of me. The 
hybrid combination of subaltern officer and widely-followed 
war correspondent was not unnaturally obnoxious to the mil 
itary mind. But to these general prejudices was added a 
personal complication. I was known to be my old Colo- 
nePs partisan and close friend. I was therefore involved in 
the zone of these larger hostilities. Even Jack Milbanke, 
French's aide-de-camp, now recovered from his wound and 
newly decorated with the V.C., was unable to mitigate the 
antagonism that prevailed. Although I was often with 

1 Trooper Roberts received for his conduct on this occasion the Distin 
guished Conduct Medal. 



French's column in march and skirmish, the General com 
pletely ignored my existence, and showed me no sign of 
courtesy or goodwill. I was sorry for this, because I greatly 
admired all I had heard of his skilful defence of the Coles- 


berg front, his dashing gallop through the Boer lines to the 
relief of Kimberley, and was naturally attracted by this gal 
lant soldierly figure, upon whom fell at this moment the 
gleam of a growing fame. Thus during the South African 
war I never exchanged a word with the General who was 
afterwards to be one of my greatest friends and with whom 
I was for many years to work at grave matters in peace and 




T was not until the beginning of May that Lord Roberts 
had replenished his magazines sufficiently to begin his 
march upon Johannesburg and Pretoria. Meanwhile the 
whole aspect of the war had degenerated, and no swift con 
clusion was in sight. The Army Headquarters had lain for 
two months in Bloemf ontein, and great was the bustle before 
the advance. Lord Roberts at this time had upon his staff in 
one capacity or another, the Duke of Norfolk, the Duke of 
Westminster and the Duke of Marlborough. This had led 
to sarcastic paragraphs in the Radical newspapers, and the 
Commander-in-Chief perhaps by nature unduly sensitive 
to public opinion determined to shorten sail. He selected 
the Duke of Marlborough for retrenchment. My cousin was 
deeply distressed at the prospect of being left behind in the 
advance. Luckily, Ian Hamilton found himself with the rank 
of General entrusted with the command of a detached force 
of 16,000 men, at least 4,000 of whom were mounted, 
which was to move parallel to the main body at a distance 
of forty or fifty miles from its right or eastern flank. I had 
decided to march with this force, where I should be welcome 
and at home. I proposed by telegram to Hamilton that he 
should take Marlborough upon his staff. The General 
agreed, and Lord Roberts, who never liked to treat anyone 
unfairly, gave a cordial approval. I inspanned my four- 
horsed wagon, and we started -upon a forty-mile march to 
overtake the flanking column. We came through the Boer- 
infested countryside defenceless but safely, and caught up 
our friends on the outskirts of Winburg. Henceforward all 
was well. 

Then began a jolly inarch, occupying with halts about six 
weeks and covering in that period between four and five 



hundred miles. The wonderful air and climate of South 
Africa, the magnificent scale of its landscape, the life of 
unceasing movement and of continuous incident made an 
impression on my mind which even after a quarter of a cen 
tury recurs with a sense of freshness and invigoration. Every 
day we saw new country. Every evening we bivouacked 
for there were no tents by the side of some new stream. 
We lived on flocks of sheep which we drove with us, and 
chickens which we hunted round the walls of deserted farms. 
My wagon had a raised floor of deal boards beneath which 
reposed two feet of the best tinned provisions and alcoholic 
stimulants which London could supply. We had every com 
fort, and all day long I scampered about the moving cavalry 
screens searching in the carelessness of youth for every scrap 
of adventure, experience or copy. Nearly every day as day 
light broke and our widespread array of horse and foot be 
gan to move, the patter of rifle fire in front, on the flank, or 
more often at the heels of the rear-guard provided the ex 
ceptional thrills of active service. Sometimes, as at the pas 
sage, of the Sand River, there were regular actions in which 
large bodies of troops were seen advancing against kopjes 
and ridges held by skilful, speedy and ubiquitous mounted 
Boers. Every few days a score of our men cut off, ambushed, 
or entrapped, made us conscious of the great fighting quali 
ties of these rifle-armed horsemen of the wilderness who 
hung upon the movements of the British forces with sleuth- 
like vigilance and tenacity. 

Lord Roberts, against the advice of his Intelligence Of 
ficer, believed that the enemy would retreat into the West 
ern rather than the Eastern Transvaal. Accordingly, as we 
approached the frontiers of the Transvaal, Sir Ian Hamil 
ton's column was shifted from the right of the main army to 
the left We crossed the central line of railway at America 
siding^and marched to the fords of the Vaal River. In this 
disposition we were so placed as to turn the western flank of 
the Johannesburg district and so compel its evacuation by 




the enemy without requiring the main army to deliver a 
costly frontal attack. The Boers were alive to the purpose 
of this manoeuvre, and although ready to evacuate Johannes 
burg, they sent a strong force to oppose the advance of 
Hamilton's column at a point called Florida on the Johannes- 
burg-Potchefstroom route. 

Here on June I, 1900, on the very ground where the 
Jameson raiders had surrendered four years before, was 
fought what in those days was considered a sharp action. 
The Boers, buried amid the jagged outcropping rocks of the 
ridges, defied bombardment and had to be dislodged by the 
bayonet. The Gordon Highlanders, with ,a loss of nearly a 
hundred killed and wounded, performed this arduous task, 
while at the same time French's mounted forces tried rather 
feebly to turn the enemy's right flank and rear. I had my 
self a fortunate escape in this fight. After the ridge had been 
taken by the Highlanders, General Smith-Dorrien, who 
commanded one of Sir Ian Hamilton's brigades, wished to 
bring his artillery immediately on to the captured position, 
and as time was short, determined to choose the place him 
self. Inviting me to follow him, he cantered forward alone 
across the rolling slopes. The Boers had, according to their 
usual custom, lighted the dry grass, and long lines of smoke 
blotted out the landscape in various direction?. In these baf 
fling veils we missed the left flank of the Gordon High 
landers on the ridge, and coming through the smoke curtain 
with its line of flame, found ourselves only a few score yards 
distant from the enemy. There was an immediate explosion 
of rifle fire. The air all around us cracked with a whip-lash 
sound of close-range bullets. We tugged our horses' heads 
round and plunged back into our smoke-curtain. One of the 
horses was grazed by a bullet, but otherwise we were un 

On the morrow of the action, Sir Ian Hamilton's column 
lay across the main road to the west of Johannesburg. 
Twenty miles away to the south of the city was the point 



where Lord Roberts's headquarters should now have ar 
rived. No means o communication existed between the two 
forces. Johannesburg was still in the hands of the enemy, 
and to go back southward by the way we had come meant 
a detour of nearly eighty miles round rough hill ranges. 
Mounted men were sent forthwith along this circuitous 
route. A more speedy means of communication with the 
Commander-in-Chief was at that juncture extremely impor 
tant. Civilians who came out of the city and entered our 
lines gave conflicting accounts of the conditions inside. The 
Boers were clearing out, but they were still there. A young 
Frenchman who seemed extremely well-informed assured 
me that it would be quite easy to bicycle through the city in 
plain clothes. The chances against being stopped and ques 
tioned in the closing hours of an evacuation were remote. He 
offered to lend me a bicycle and guide me himself. I de 
cided to make the attempt. Sir Ian Hamilton gave me his 
dispatch, and I had also my own telegrams for the Morning 
Post. We started in the afternoon and bicycled straight down 
the main road into the city. As we passed our farthest out 
post lines I experienced a distinct sensation of adventure. We 
were soon in the streets of Johannesburg. Darkness was al 
ready falling. But numbers of people were about, and at once 
I saw among them armed and mounted Boers. They were 
still in possession of the city, and we were inside their lines. 
According to all the laws of war my situation, if arrested, 
would have been disagreeable. I was an officer holding a 
commission in the South African Light Horse, disguised in 
plain clothes and secretly within the enemy's lines. No court- 
martial that ever sat in Europe would have had much dif 
ficulty in disposing of such a case. On all these matters I was 
quite well informed. 

We had to walk our bicycles up a long steep street, and 
while thus engaged we heard behind us the overtaking ap 
proach of a slowly-trotting horseman. To alter our pace 
would have been fatal. We continued to plod along, in ap- 



pearance unconcerned, exchanging a word from time to time 
as we had agreed in French. In a few moments the horseman 
was alongside. He reined his horse into a walk and scrutinised 
us attentively. I looked up at him, and our eyes met. He 
had his rifle slung on his back, his pistol in his holster, and 
three bandoliers of cartridges. His horse was heavily loaded 
with his belongings. We continued thus to progress three 
abreast for what seemed to me an uncommonly long time, 
and then our unwelcome companion, touching his horse with 
a spur, drew again into his trippling trot and left us behind. 
It was too soon to rejoice. At any moment we might come 
upon the Boer picket line if such a line existed opposite 
Lord Roberts's troops 5 and our intention was to bicycle along 
the road without the slightest attempt at concealment. How 
ever, we found no Boer picket line nor, I regret to say, any 
British picket line. As the streets of Johannesburg began to 
melt into the country we met the first British soldiers of 
Lord Roberts's forces. They were quite unarmed and stroll 
ing forward into the city in search of food, or even drink. 
We asked where the army was. They indicated that it was 
close by. We advised them not to go farther into the town 
or they would be taken prisoners or shot. 

' What's that, guv'nor?' said one of them, suddenly be 
coming interested in this odd possibility. 

On being told that we had passed armed Boers only a mile 
farther back, these warriors desisted from their foray and 
turned off to examine some small neighbouring houses. My 
companion and I bicycled along the main road till we found 
the headquarters of I^ord Roberts's leading division. From 
here we were directed to the General Headquarters nearly 
ten miles farther south. It was quite dark when at last we 
reached them. An aide-de-camp whom I knew came to the 

'Where do you spring from?' 

' We have come from Ian Hamilton. I have brought a dis 
patch for the Commander-in-Chief .' 



'Splendid!' he said. 'We have been longing for news.' 

He disappeared. My business was with the Press Censor, 
for whom I had a heavy sheaf of telegrams full of earliest 
and exclusive information. But before I could find this of 
ficial the aide-de-camp reappeared. 

'Lord Roberts wants you to come in at once.' 

The Commander-in-Chief was at dinner with about a 
dozen officers of his Headquarter Staff. He jumped up from 
his chair as I entered, and with a most cordial air advanced 
towards me holding out his hand. 

'How did you come?' he asked. 

'We came along the main road through the city, sir.' 

'Through Johannesburg? Our reports are that it is still 
occupied by the enemy.' 

'There are a few, sir,' I said, 'but they are clearing out.' 

'Did you see any of them?' 

'Yes, we saw several, sir.' 

His eye twinkled. Lord Roberts had very remarkable 
eyes, full of light. I remember being struck by this at the 

'Did you see Hamilton's action yesterday?' was his next 

'Yes, sir.' 

'Tell me all about it.' 

Then, while being most hospitably entertained, I gave a 
full account of the doings of General Hamilton's force to my 
father's old friend and now once again my own. 

* * * * * 

Pretoria capitulated four days later. Enormous spans of 
oxen had dragged two 9.5-inch howitzers, the cow-guns as 
they were called, all these hundreds of miles to bombard the 
forts; but they were never needed after all. Nevertheless my 
re-entry of the Boer capital was exciting. Early on the morn 
ing of the 5th Marlborough and I rode out together and 
soon reached the head of an infantry column already in the 



outskirts of the town. There were no military precautions, 
and we arrived, a large group of officers, at the closed gates 
of the railway level crossing. Quite slowly there now steamed 
past our eyes a long train drawn by two engines and crammed 
with armed Boers whose rifles bristled from every window. 
We gazed at each other dumbfounded at three yards' dis 
tance. A single shot would have precipitated a horrible car 
nage on both sides. Although sorry that the train should 
escape, it was with unfeigned relief that we saw the last car 
riage glide away past our noses. 

Then Marlborough and I cantered into the town. We 
knew that the officer prisoners had been removed from the 
State Model Schools, and we asked our way to the new cage 
where it was hoped they were still confined. We feared they 
had been carried off perhaps in the very last train. But as 
we rounded a corner, there was the prison camp, a long tin 
building surrounded by a dense wire entanglement. I raised 
my hat and cheered. The cry was instantly answered from 
within. What followed resembled the end of an Adelphi 
melodrama. We were only two, and before us stood the 
armed Boer guard with their rifles at the 'ready.' Marl- 
borough, resplendent in the red tabs of the staff, called on 
the Commandant to surrender forthwith, adding by a happy 
thought that he would give a receipt for the rifles. The 
prisoners rushed out of the house into the yard, some in uni 
form, some in flannels, hatless or coatless, but all violently 
excited. The sentries threw down their rifles, the gates were 
flung open, and while the last of the guard (they numbered 
52 in all) stood uncertain what to do, the long-penned-up 
officers surrounded them and seized their weapons. Someone 
produced a Union Jack, the Transvaal emblem was torn 
down, and amidst wild cheers from our captive friends the 
first British flag was hoisted over Pretoria. Time: 847, June 
5. Tableau! 



I had one more adventure in South Africa. After taking 
part a fortnight later in the action of Diamond Hill, fought 
to drive the Boers farther away from Pretoria, I decided to 
return home. Our operations were at an end. The war had 
become a guerrilla and promised to be shapeless and indefi 
nite. A general election could not long be delayed. With the 
consent of the authorities I resumed my full civilian status 
and took the train for Cape Town. 

All went well till we reached the neighbourhood beyond 
Kopjes Station, about 100 miles south of Johannesburg. In 
the first light of morning I was breakfasting with West 
minister, who was travelling on some commission for Lord 
Roberts, when suddenly the train stopped with a jerk. We 
got out on to the line, and at the same moment there arrived 
almost af our feet a shell from a small Boer gun. It burst 
with a startling bang, throwing up clods from the embank 
ment. A hundred yards ahead of us a temporary wooden 
bridge was in flames. The train was enormously long, and 
crowded with soldiers from a score of regiments, who for 
one reason or another were being sent south or home. No 
one was in command. The soldiers began to get out of the 
carriages in confusion. I saw no officers. Kopjes Station, 
where there was a fortified camp surmounted by two 5-inch 
guns, was three miles back. My memories of the armoured 
train made me extremely sensitive about our line of retreat. 
I had no wish to repeat the experiences of November 15$ I 
therefore ran along the railway line to the engine, climbed 
into the cab, and ordered the engine-driver to blow his 
whistle to make the men re-entrain, and steam back instantly 
to Kopjes Station. He obeyed. While I was standing on the 
foot-plate to make sure the soldiers had got back into the 
train, I saw, less than a hundred yards away in the dry water 
course under the burning bridge, a cluster of dark figures. 
These were the last Boers I was to see as enemies. I fitted 
the wooden stock to the Mauser pistol and fired six or seven 
times at them. They scattered without firing back. Then the 



engine started, and we were soon all safely within the en 
trenchment at Kopjes Station. Here we learned that a fierce 
action was proceeding at Honing Spruit, a station farther 
down the line. The train before ours had been held up, and 
was at that moment being attacked by a considerable Boer 
force with artillery. The line had been broken in front of 
our train, no doubt to prevent reinforcements coming to their 
aid. However, with a loss of 60 or 70 men our friends at 
Honing Spruit managed to hold out till the next day when 
help arrived from the south and the Boers retreated. As it 
would take several days to repair the line, we borrowed 
horses and marched all night from Kopjes Station with a 
troop of Australian Lancers, coming through without mis 
adventure. I thought for many years that the 2-inch Creusot 
shell which had burst so near us on the embankment was the 
last projectile I should ever see fired in anger. This expecta 
tion however proved unfounded. 




MOST people in England thought that the war was over 
now that Pretoria was taken and above all when Ma- 
f eking was relieved. They were encouraged in this by Lord 
Roberts's speeches. They gave themselves up to rejoicings. 
But the Government knew better. They had allowed them 
selves to be drawn on by the tides of success into an arbitrary 
and dangerous position. There was to be no negotiation with 
the Boer Republics. They were simply to be blotted out. If 
the Boers liked to come in and surrender either singly or 
under their generals, they would get very good treatment, 
and ultimately, after enough English had settled in the con 
quered territory to make it safe, they would be given self- 
government as in other British colonies. Otherwise they 
would be hunted down or caught even to the very last man. 
As Lord Milner put it some time later on, *in a certain sense 
the war would never be ended' j it would just fade away. The 
guerrilla phase would be ended by the armies j and after 
that, brigandage in the mountains and the back-veldt would 
be put down by armed police. 

This was an error destined to cost us dear. There were 
still many thousands of wild, fierce, dauntless men under 
leaders like Botha, Smuts, De Wet, De la Rey and Hertzog 
who now fought on in their vast country not for victory, but 
for honour. The flames of partisan warfare broke out again 
and again behind the armies in regions completely pacified. 
Even the Cape Colony was rekindled by Smuts into a fire 
which smouldered or blazed for two destructive years and, 
was extinguished only by formal negotiation. This loiag- 
drawn struggle bred shocking evils, The roving enemy .? 



no uniforms of their own $ they mingled with the population, 
lodged and were succoured in farmhouses whose owners had 
taken the oath of neutrality, and sprang into being, now here 
now there, to make some formidable and bloody attack upon 
an unwary column or isolated post. To cope with all this the 
British military authorities found it necessary to clear whole 
districts of their inhabitants and gather the population into 
concentration camps. As the railways were continually cut, it 
was difficult to supply these camps with all the necessaries of 
life. Disease broke out and several thousands of women and 
children died. The policy of burning farms whose owners 
had broken their oath, far from quelling the fighting Boers, 
only rendered them desperate. The British on their side 
were incensed against the rebels, oath-breakers, and Boers 
who wore captured British uniforms (mainly because they 
had no other clothes, but sometimes as a treacherous strata 
gem) . However, very few persons were executed. Kitchener 
shot with impartial rigour a British officer and some colonial 
troopers convicted long after their offence of having killed 
some Boer prisoners 5 and to the very end the Boer com 
mandos did not hesitate to send their wounded into the 
British field hospitals. Thus humanity and civilisation were 
never wholly banished, and both sides preserved amid fright 
ful reciprocal injuries some mutual respect during two harsh 
years of waste and devastation. All this however lay in the 

I received the warmest of welcomes on returning home. 
Oldham almost without distinction of party accorded me a 
triumph. I entered the town in state in a procession of ten 
landaus, and drove through streets crowded with enthusiastic 
operatives and mill-girls. I described my escape to a tre 
mendous meeting in the Theatre Royal. As our forces had 
now occupied the Witbank Colliery district, and those who 
had aided me were safe under British protection, I was free 
fbr the first time to tell the whole story. When I mentioned 
the name of Mr. Dewsnap, the Oldham engineer who had 



wound me down the mine, the audience shouted: *His wife's 
in the gallery.' There was general jubilation. 

This harmony was inevitably to be marred. The Con 
servative leaders determined to appeal to the country before 
the enthusiasm of victory died down. They had already been 
in office for five years. A General Election must come in 
eighteen months, and the opportunity was too good to be 
thrown away. Indeed they could not have carried out the 
policy of annexing the Boer Republics and of suppressing all 
opposition by force of arms without parley, except in a new 
Parliament and with a new majority. Early in September 
therefore Parliament was dissolved. We had the same kind of 
election as occurred in a far more violent form after the Great 
War in December 1918. All the Liberals, even those who 
had most loyally supported the war measures, including some 
who had lost their sons, were lapped in a general condem 
nation as Tro-Boers.' Mr. Chamberlain uttered the slogan, 
'Every seat lost to the Government is a seat gained to the 
Boers' and Conservatives generally followed in his wake. The 
Liberal and Radical masses, however, believing in the lull of 
the war that the fighting was over, rallied stubbornly to their 
party organisations. The election was well contested all over 
the country. The Conservatives in those days had a large per 
manent majority of the English electorate. The prevailing 
wave of opinion was with them, and Lord Salisbury and his 
colleagues were returned with a scarcely diminished major 
ity of 134 over all opponents, including the 80 Irish Nation 
alists. His majority in the main island was overwhelming. 

I stood in the van of this victory. In those days our wise 
and prudent law spread a general election over nearly six 
weeks. Instead of all the electors voting blindly on one day, 
and only learning the next morning what they had done, 
national issues were really fought out. A rough but earnest 
and searching national discussion took place in which leading 
men on both sides played a part. The electorate of a constit 
uency was not unmanageable in numbers. A candidate could 



address all his supporters who wished to hear him. A great 
speech by an eminent personage would often turn a con 
stituency or even a city. Speeches of well-known and experi 
enced statesmen were fully reported in all the newspapers 
and studied by wide political classes. Thus by a process of 
rugged argument the national decision was reached in mea 
sured steps. 

In those days of hammer and anvil politics, the earliest 
election results were awaited with intense interest. Oldham 
was almost the first constituency to poll. I fought on the 
platform that the war was just and necessary, that the 
Liberals had been wrong to oppose it, and in many ways had 
hampered its conduct j that it must be fought to an indis 
putable conclusion, and that thereafter there should be a 
generous settlement. I had a new colleague at my side, Mr. 
C. B. Crisp, a City of London merchant. Mr. Mawdsley was 
no more. He was a very heavy man. He had taken a bath in 
a china vessel which had broken under his weight, inflicting 
injuries to which he eventually succumbed. My opponents, 
Mr. Emmott and Mr. Runciman, had both adopted in the 
main Lord Rosebery's attitude towards the war; that is to 
say, they supported the country in the conflict, but alleged 
gross incompetence in its conduct by the Conservative Party. 
The Liberals, it appeared, would have made quite a different 
set of mistakes. As a second string, they suggested that the 
Liberals would have shown such tact in their diplomacy that 
war might possibly have been avoided altogether, and all its 
objects like making President Kruger give way have been 
achieved without shedding blood. All this of course rested 
on mere assertion. I rejoined that however the negotiations 
had been conducted, they had broken down because the Boers 
invaded British territory j and that however ill the war had 
been waged, we had now repulsed the invaders and taken 
both their capitals. The Conservative Party throughout the 
fgtmtry also argued that this was a special election on the sole 
the justice of the war and to win a complete 



victory; and that ordinary class, sectarian, and party differ 
ences ought to be set aside by patriotic men. This at the time 
was my sincere belief. 

Mr. Chamberlain himself came to speak for me. There 
was more enthusiasm over him at this moment than after 
the Great War for Mr. Lloyd George and Sir Douglas Haig 
combined. There was at the same time a tremendous opposi 
tion; but antagonism had not wholly excluded admiration 
from their breasts. We drove to our great meeting together 
in an open carriage. Our friends had filled the theatre; our 
opponents thronged its approaches. At the door of the thea 
tre our carriage was jammed tight for some minutes in an 
immense hostile crowd, all groaning and booing at the tops 
of their voices, and grinning with the excitement of seeing a 
famous fellow-citizen whom it was their right and duty to 
oppose. I watched my honoured guest with close attention. 
He loved the roar of the multitude, and with my father 
could always say C I have never feared the English democ 
racy. 5 The blood mantled in his cheek, and his eye as it 
caught mine twinkled with pure enjoyment. I must explain 
that in those days we had a real political democracy led by a 
hierarchy of statesmen, and not a fluid mass distracted by 
newspapers. There was a structure in which statesmen, elec 
tors and the press all played their part. Inside the meeting 
we were all surprised at Mr. Chamberlain's restraint. His 
soft purring voice and reasoned incisive sentences, for most 
of which he had a careful note, made a remarkable impres 
sion. He spoke for over an hour; but what pleased the audi 
ence most was that, having made a mistake in some fact or 
figure to the prejudice of his opponents, he went back and 
corrected it, observing that he must not be unfair. All this 
was before the liquefaction of the British political system 
had set in. 

When we came to count the votes, of which there were 
nearly 30,000, it was evident that the Liberals and Labour 
ists formed the stronger party in Oldham. Mr. Einmatt 



headed the poll. However, it appeared that about 20O Lib 
erals who had voted for him had given their second votes to 
me out of personal goodwill and war feeling. So I turned 
Mr. Runciman out of the second place and was elected to the 
House of Commons by the modest margin of 230 votes. I 
walked with my friends through the tumult to the Conserva 
tive Club. There I found already awaiting me the glowing 
congratulations of Lord Salisbury. The old Prime Minister 
must have been listening at the telephone, or very near it, 
for the result. Then from every part of the country flowed 
in a stream of joyous and laudatory messages. Henceforward 
I became a 'star turn' at the election. I was sought for from 
every part of the country. I had to speak in London the 
next night, and Mr. Chamberlain demanded the two follow 
ing nights in the Birmingham area. I was on my way to fulfil 
these engagements, when my train was boarded by a mes 
senger from Mr. Balfour informing me that he wished me 
to cancel my London engagement, to come back at once to 
Manchester and speak with him that afternoon, and to wind 
up the campaign in Stockport that night. I obeyed. 

Mr. Balfour was addressing a considerable gathering when 
I arrived. The whole meeting rose and shouted at my entry. 
With his great air the Leader of the House of Commons 
presented me to the audience. After this I never addressed 
any but the greatest meetings. Five or six thousand electors 
all men brimming with interest, thoroughly acquainted 
with the main objects, crowded into the finest halls, with 
venerated pillars of the party and many-a-year members of 
Parliament sitting as supporters on the platform! Such hence 
forward in that election and indeed for nearly a generation 
were my experiences. I spent two days with Mr. Chamber 
lain at Highbury. He passed the whole of one of them in 
bed resting; but after I had been carried around in a special 
train to three meetings in the Midland area, he received me 
at supper in his most gleaming mood with a bottle of '34 
port. For three weeks I had what seemed to me a triumphal 



progress through the country. The party managers selected 
the critical seats, and quite a lot of victories followed in my 
train. I was twenty-six. Was it wonderful that I should have 
thought I had arrived? But luckily life is not so easy as all 
that: otherwise we should get to the end too quickly. 

There seemed however to be still two important steps to 
be taken. The first was to gather sufficient money to enable 
me to concentrate my attention upon politics without having 
to do any other work. The sales of The River War and of 
my two books of war correspondence from South Africa, to 
gether with the ten months' salary amounting to 2,500 
from the Morning Post y had left me in possession of more 
than 4,000. An opportunity of increasing this reserve was 
now at hand. I had planned to lecture all the autumn and 
winter at home and in America. The English tour began as 
soon as the election was over. Having already spoken every 
night for five weeks, I had now to undergo two and a half 
months of similar labours interrupted only by the week's 
voyage across the ocean. The lectures in England were suc 
cessful. Lord Wolseley presided over the first, and the great 
est personages in the three kingdoms on both sides of politics 
took the chair as I moved from one city to another. All the 
largest halls were crowded with friendly audiences to wham, 
aided by a magic lantern, I unfolded my adventures and 
escape, all set in the general framework of the war. I hardly 
ever earned less than 100 a night and often much more. At 
the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool I gathered over 300. 
Altogether in the month of November I banked safely over 
4,500, having toured little more than half of Great Britain. 

Parliament was to meet in the opening days of December, 
and I longed to take my seat in the House of Commons, I 
had however, instead, to cross the Atlantic to fulfil my en 
gagements. A different atmosphere prevailed in the United 
States. I was surprised to find that many of these amiable 
and hospitable Americans who spoke the same language and 
seemed in essentials very like ourselves, were not nearly so 



excited about the South African War as we were at home. 
Moreover a great many of them thought the Boers were in 
the right j and the Irish everywhere showed themselves ac 
tively hostile. The audiences varied from place to place. At 
Baltimore only a few hundreds assembled in a hall which 
would have held 5,000. At Boston, on the other hand, an 
enormous pro-British demonstration was staged, and even 
the approaches to the Fremont Hall were thronged. The 
platform here was composed of 300 Americans in red uni 
forms belonging to an Anglo-American Society, and the as 
pect of the meeting was magnificent. In Chicago I encoun 
tered vociferous opposition. However, when I made a few 
jokes against myself, and paid a sincere tribute to the cour 
age and humanity of the Boers, they were placated. On the 
whole I found it easy to make friends with American audi 
ences. They were cool and critical, but also urbane and good- 

Throughout my journeyings I received the help of emi 
nent Americans. Mr. Bourke Cockran, Mr. Chauncey Depew, 
and other leading politicians presided, and my opening lec 
ture in New York was under the auspices of no less a person 
age than 'Mark Twain' himself. I was thrilled by this famous 
companion of my youth. He was now very old and snow- 
white, and combined with a noble air a most delightful style 
of conversation. Of course we argued about the war. After 
some interchanges I found myself beaten back to the citadel 
'My country right or wrong. 5 'Ah,' said the old gentleman, 
'When the poor country is fighting for its life, I agree. But 
this was not your case.' I think however I did not displease 
himj for he was good enough at my request to sign every 
one of the thirty volumes of his works for my benefit j and 
in the first volume he inscribed the following maxim in 
tended, I daresay, to convey a gentle admonition: 'To do 
good is noble 5 to teach others to do good is nobler, and no 
trouble. 3 

All this quiet tolerance changed when we crossed the 



Canadian border. Here again were present the enthusiastic 
throngs to which I had so easily accustomed myself at home. 
Alas, I could only spend ten days in these inspiring scenes. 
In the middle of January I returned home and resumed my 
tour of our cities. I visited every one of them. When I spoke 
in the Ulster Hall, the venerable Lord Dufferin introduced 
me. No one could turn a compliment so well as he. I can 
hear him now saying with his old-fashioned pronunciation, 
'And this young man at an age when many of his contem 
poraries have hardly left their studies has seen more active 
service than half the general orficers in Europe.' I had not 
thought of this before. It was good. 

When my tour came to an end in the middle of February, 
I was exhausted. For more than five months I had spoken for 
an hour or more almost every night except Sundays, and 
often twice a day, and had travelled without ceasing, usually 
by night, rarely sleeping twice in the same bed. And this had 
followed a year of marching and fighting with rarely a roof 
or a bed at all. But the results were substantial. I had in my 
possession nearly 10,000. I was entirely independent and 
had no need to worry about the future, or for many years to 
work at anything but politics. I sent my 10,000 to my 
father's old friend, Sir Ernest Cassel, with the instruction 
Teed my sheep.' He fed the sheep with great prudence. 
They did not multiply fast, but they fattened steadily, and 
none of them ever died. Indeed from year to year they had 
a few lambs 5 but these were not numerous enough for me to 
live upon. I had every year to eat a sheep or two as well j so 
gradually my flock grew smaller, until in a few years it was 
almost entirely devoured. Nevertheless, while it lasted, I 
had no care. 



PARLIAMENT reassembled late in February and plunged 
immediately into fierce debates. In those days the pro 
ceedings in the House of Commons were fully reported in 
the Press and closely followed by the electors. Crucial ques 
tions were often argued with sustained animation in three-day 
debates. During their course all the principal orators con 
tended, and at their close the parties took decisive trials of 
strength. The House used to sit till midnight, and from 9.30 
onwards was nearly always crowded. It was Mr. Balfour's 
practice as Leader to wind up almost every important debate, 
and the chiefs of the Opposition, having summed up in mas 
sive form their case from ten to eleven, heard a comprehen 
sive reply from eleven to twelve. Anyone who tried to speak 
after the leaders had finished was invariably silenced by 

It was an honour to take part in the deliberations of this 
famous assembly which for centuries had guided England 
through numberless perils forward on the path of empire. 
Though I had done nothing else for many months but ad 
dress large audiences, it was with awe as well as eagerness 
that I braced myself for what I regarded as the supreme 
ordeal. As I had not been present at the short winter session, 
I had only taken my seat for four days before I rose to ad 
dress the House. I need not recount the pains I had taken to 
prepare, nor the efforts I had made to hide the work of 
preparation. The question in debate, which raised the main 
issue of the war, was one upon which I felt myself competent 
to argue or advise. I listened to counsel from many friendly 
quarters. Some said c lt is too soonj wait for a few months till 
you know the House.' Others said c lt is your subject: do not 



miss the chance.' I was warned against offending the House 
by being too controversial on an occasion when everyone 
wished to show goodwill. I was warned against mere colour 
less platitude. But the best advice I got was from Mr. Henry 
Chaplin, who said to me in his rotund manner, 'Don't be 
hurried j unfold your case. If you have anything to say, the 
House will listen.' 

I learned that a rising young Welshman, a pro-Boer, and 
one of our most important bugbears, named Lloyd George, 
who from below the gangway was making things very dif 
ficult for the leaders of the Liberal party, would probably 
be called about nine o'clock. He had a moderately phrased 
amendment on the paper, but whether he would move it was 
not certain. I gathered that I could, if I wished, have the 
opportunity of following him. In those days, and indeed for 
many years, I was unable to say anything (except a sentence 
in rejoinder), that I had not written out and committed to 
memory beforehand. I had never had the practice which 
comes to young men at the University of speaking in small 
debating societies impromptu upon all sorts of subjects. I had 
to try to foresee the situation and to have a number of vari 
ants ready to meet its possibilities. I therefore came with a 
quiverful of arrows of different patterns and sizes, some of 
which I hoped would hit the target. My concern was in 
creased by the uncertainty about what Mr. Lloyd George 
would do. I hoped that the lines I had prepared would fol 
low fairly well from what he would probably say. 

The hour arrived. I sat in the corner seat above the gang 
way, immediately behind the Ministers, the same seat from 
which my father had made his speech of resignation and his 
terrible Piggott attack. On my left, a friendly counsellor, sat 
the long-experienced Parliamentarian, Mr. Thomas Gibson 
Bowles, Towards nine o'clock the House began to fill. Mr. 
Lloyd George spoke from the third bench below the gang 
way on the Opposition side, surroitoded by a handful oif 
Welshmen and JRMicak, and lacked by the Irislt Nationalist 



party. He announced forthwith that he did not intend to 
move his amendment, but would instead speak on the main 
question. Encouraged by the cheers of the 'Celtic fringes' he 
soon became animated and even violent. I constructed in 
succession sentence after sentence to hook on with after he 
should sit down. Each of these poor couplings became in turn 
obsolete. A sense of alarm and even despair crept across me. 
I repressed it with an inward gasp. Then Mr. Bowles whis 
pered 'You might say "instead of making his violent speech 
without moving his moderate amendment, he had better 
have moved his moderate amendment without making his 
violent speech." 5 Manna in the wilderness was not more 
welcome! It fell only just in time. To my surprise I heard 
my opponent saying that he 'would curtail his remarks as he 
was sure the House wished to hear a new member/ and with 
this graceful gesture he suddenly resumed his seat. 

I was up before I knew it, and reciting Tommy Bowles's 
rescuing sentence. It won a general cheer. Courage returned. 
I got through all right. The Irish whom I had been taught 
to detest were a wonderful audience. They gave just the 
opposition which would help, and said nothing they thought 
would disturb. They did not seem the least offended when I 
made a joke at their expense. But presently when I said 'the 
Boers who are fighting in the field and if I were a Boer, I 
hofe I should be fighting in the field . . . .' I saw a 
ruffle upon the Treasury bench below me. Mr. Chamberlain 
said something to his neighbour which I could not hear. Af 
terwards George Wyndham told me it was 'That's the way 
to throw away seats!' But I could already see the shore at no 
great distance, and swam on vigorously till I could scramble 
up the beach, breathless physically, dripping metaphorically, 
but safe. Everyone was very kind. The usual restoratives 
were applied, and I sat in a comfortable coma till I was strong 
enough to go home. The general verdict was not unfavour 
able. Although many guessed I had learnt it all by heart, 
this was pardoned because of the pains I had taken. The 



House of Commons, though gravely changed, is still an 
august collective personality. It is always indulgent to those 
who are proud to be its servants. 

After this debate I first made the acquaintance of Mr. 
Lloyd George. We were introduced at the Bar of the House 
of Commons. After compliments, he said 'Judging from your 
sentiments, you are standing against the Light.' I replied 
'You take a singularly detached view of the British Empire.' 
Thus began an association which has persisted through many 

I only made two more really successful speeches from the 
Conservative benches in this Parliament, and both were in its 
earliest months. The War Office had appointed a certain 
General Colville to command a brigade at Gibraltar. Having 
done this they became dissatisfied about his conduct in some 
South African action fought nearly a year before, but the 
facts of which they had only just found out. They therefore 
dismissed him from his command. The Opposition champi 
oned the General and censured his belated punishment. There 
was a row at Question time, and a debate was fixed for the 
following week. Here was a country with which I was fa 
miliar, and I had plenty of time to choose the best defensive 
positions. The debate opened ill for the Government, and 
criticism was directed upon them from all sides. In those 
days it was a serious matter for an Administration, even with 
a large majority, to be notably worsted in debate. It was sup 
posed to do harm to the party. Ministers were quite upset if 
they felt that Harcourt, Asquith, Morley or Grey had broken 
their front in any degree. I came in well on this, with what 
everybody thought was a debating speech * but it was only 
the result of a lucky anticipation of the course of the debate. 
In fact I defended the Government by arguments which ap 
pealed to the Opposition. The Conservatives were pleased 
and tfee Liberals cdmpBinentaryv George; Wyndh^n^ now 


circles. I really seemed to be finding my footing in the 

Meanwhile however I found myself in marked reaction 
from the dominant views of the Conservative party. I was 
all for fighting the war, which had now flared up again in a 
desultory manner, to a victorious conclusion} and for that 
purpose I would have used far larger numbers, and also 
have organised troops of a higher quality than were actually 
employed. I would also have used Indian troops. At the 
same time I admired the dauntless resistance of the Boers, 
resented the abuse with which they were covered and hoped 
for an honourable peace which should bind these brave men 
and their leaders to us for ever. I thought farm-burning a 
hateful folly 5 I protested against the execution of Com 
mandant Scheepers; I perhaps played some part behind the 
scenes in averting the execution of Commandant Kruitzinger. 
My divergences extended to a wider sphere. When the Secre 
tary of State for War said 'It is by accident that we have 
become a military nation. We must endeavour to remain 
one,' I was offended. I thought we should finish the war by 
force and generosity, and then make haste to return to paths 
of peace, retrenchment and reform. Although I enjoyed the 
privilege of meeting in pleasant circles most of the Con 
servative leaders, and was always treated with extraordinary 
kindness and good nature by Mr. Balfour j although I often 
saw Mr. Chamberlain and heard him discuss affairs with the 
greatest freedom, I drifted steadily to the left. I found that 
Rosebery, Asquith and Grey and above all John Morley 
seemed to understand my point of view far better than my 
own chiefs. I was fascinated by the intellectual stature of 
these men and their broad and inspiring outlook upon public 
affairs, untrammelled as it was by the practical burden of 

The reader must remember that not having been to a 
university, I had not been through any of those processes of 
youthful discussion by which opinion may be formed or re- 



formed in happy irresponsibility. I was already a well-known 
public character. I at least attached great importance to 
everything I said, and certainly it was often widely pub 
lished. I became anxious to make the Conservative party 
follow Liberal courses. I was in revolt against 'jingoism.' I 
had a sentimental view about the Boers. I found myself dif 
fering from both parties in various ways, and I was so untu 
tored as to suppose that all I had to do was to think out what 
was right and express it fearlessly. I thought that loyalty in 
this outweighed all other loyalties. I did not understand the 
importance of party discipline and unity, and the sacrifices 
of opinion which may lawfully be made in their cause. 

My third speech was a very serious affair. Mr. Brodrick, 
Secretary of State for War, had announced his scheme for 
reorganising the Army on a somewhat larger scale. He pro 
posed to form all the existing forces, regulars, militia and 
volunteers, into six army corps by what would in the main 
be a paper transaction. I resolved to oppose this whenever 
the Army Estimates should be introduced. I took six weeks 
to prepare this speech, and learnt it so thoroughly off by 
heart that it hardly mattered where I began it or how I 
turned it. Two days were assigned for the discussion, and by 
good fortune and the favour of the Speaker I was called at 
eleven o'clock on the first day. I had one hour before a 
division after midnight was taken on some other subject. 
The House was therefore crowded in every part, and I was 
listened to throughout with the closest attention. I delivered 
what was in effect a general attack, not only upon the policy 
of the Government, but upon the mood and tendency of the 
Conservative party, urging peace, economy and reduction of 
armaments. The Conservatives treated me with startled con 
sideration, while the Opposition of course cheered gener 
ously. As a speech it was certainly successful; but it marked 
a definite divergence of thought and sympathy from yearly 
all those who thronged tjie benches around me*. .-I had sent it 
oS to, the Mornmg Post beforehand ajidjtip^s! already lut 

' ' 


print. What would have happened if I had not been called, 
or had not got through with it, I cannot imagine. The worry 
and anxiety of manufacturing and letting off a set piece of 
this kind were harassing. I was much relieved when it was 
over. But certainly to have the whole House of Commons 
listening as they had seemed to me a tremendous event, and 
to repay both the effort and the consequences. 

Meanwhile we had formed our small Parliamentary so 
ciety nicknamed c The Hooligans.' It consisted of Lord Percy, 
Lord Hugh Cecil, Mr. Ian Malcolm, Mr. Arthur Stanley 
and myself. We dined every Thursday in the House and 
always invited one distinguished guest. All the leading men 
on both sides came. Sometimes we entertained well-known 
strangers like Mr. W. J. Bryan. We even asked Lord Salis 
bury himself. But he replied by bidding us dine with him at 
Arlington Street. The Prime Minister was in the best of 
humours, and conversed majestically on every subject that 
was raised. As we walked out into the street Percy said to 
me, 'I wonder how it feels to have been Prime Minister for 
twenty years, and to be just about to die.' With Lord Salis 
bury much else was to pass away. His retirement and death 
marked the end of an epoch. The new century of storm and 
change had already embraced the British Empire in its fierce 

The world in which Lord Salisbury had reigned, the times 
and scenes with which these pages have dealt, the structure 
and character of the Conservative Party, the foundations of 
English governing society, all were soon to be separated from 
us by gulfs and chasms such as have rarely opened in so 
brief a space. Little could we foresee how strong would be 
the tides that would bear us forward or apart with resistless 
force; still less the awful convulsions which would shake the 
world and shiver into fragments the structures of the nine 
teenth century. However, Percy had a premonition of events 
he was not destined to see. When I walked with him in the 
autumn at Dunrobin, he explained to me the Irvingite re- 



ligion. There had it appeared been twelve apostles sent to 
warn mankind j but their message had been disregarded. The 
last of them had died on the same day as Queen Victoria. 
Our chance of safety was therefore gone. He predicted with 
strange assurance an era of fearful wars and of terrors un 
measured and renewing. He used the word Armageddon, of 
which I had only previously heard mention in the Bible. It 
happened that the German Crown Prince was staying at 
Dunrobin. I could not help wondering whether this agree 
able young man, our companion in pillow-fights and billiard- 
table fives, would play any part in the realisation of Percy's 
sombre prophecies. 

In April 1902 a breeze arose in the House of Commons 
about a certain Mr. Cartwright, This man had been im 
prisoned for a year in South Africa for writing a seditious 
article while the war was progressing. He had served his 
sentence and wished to come to England. The military 
authorities in South Africa refused him leave, and when 
Ministers were interrogated upon this in Parliament, the 
Under Secretary for War replied 'that it was undesirable to 
increase the number of persons in England who disseminated 
anti-British propaganda.' Thus an abuse of power was de 
fended by the worst of reasons: for where else could anti- 
British propaganda be less harmful at this time than in Great 
Britain? John Morley moved an adjournment. In those days 
such a motion was discussed forthwith. All the Opposition 
leaders spoke with indignation, and I and another of our 
small group supported them from the Conservative benches. 
The matter was trumpery, but feeling ran high. 

That night we were to have Mr. Chamberlain as our 
dinner guest *I am dining in very bad company/ he ob 
served, surveying us with a challenging air. We explained 
how inept and arrogant the action of the Government had 
been. How could we be expected to support it? 'What is the 
use/ he replied, c of supporting your own Government only 
when it is right? It is just when it is in this spit of pickle 


that you ought to have come to our aid.' However, as he 
mellowed, he became most gay and captivating. I never re 
member having heard him talk better. As he rose to leave 
he paused at the door, and turning said with much delibera 
tion, 'You young gentlemen have entertained me royally, 
and in return I will give you a priceless secret. Tariffs! 
There are the politics of the future, and of the near future. 
Study them closely and make yourselves masters of them, 
and you will not regret your hospitality to me;.' 

He was quite right. Events were soon to arise in the fiscal 
sphere which were to plunge me into new struggles and 
absorb my thoughts and energies at least until September 
1908, when I married and lived happily ever afterwards. 




Africa, South. See South Af 


Afridis, 149, 151 
Amery, 18, 243 
Ardagh, Sir John, 231 
Arthur, Prince, Duke of Con- 

naught, 6 1 

Ascroft, Robert, 219, 220, 
Asquith, Mr. (Lord Oxford and 

Asquith), 22, 227 
Atkins, J. B., 241 

Balfour, Earl, letters to Mr. 
Churchill on his defeat at 
Oldham, 226, 227 

message to Buller on reliev 

ing of Ladysmith, 302 

remark on Mr. Churchill, 


remark on Sir George White, 


302, 358 
Ball, Major, 49 
Bangalore, 105, 109 jf. 
Baring, Hugo, 103, 106 
Barnes, Reginald, 76, 106, 209, 

2ii, 242 

Beaconsfield, Lord, 8 
Beatty, Lord, 179 
Benzo. Lieut.-CoL, 82 
Beresford, Lord Marcus, 233 
Beresford, Lord William, 91, 

92, 122 

Birkenhead, Lord, 331 

Blood, Sir Bindon, 92, 122, 123, 


146, 150,15*, 233 
Boer War, 229^352 
Boers' treatment of white pris- 

Borthwick, Oliver, 167, 205, 230 
Botha, General, predicts the 
Great War, 254 

takes Mr. Churchill pris 

oner, 252-254 

253, 254, 255, 314 
Bowles, Thomas Gibson, 363, 


Brabazon, General, 61, 67-70, 
89, 93, 94, 102, 115, 336- 

Brindle, Bishop, 333 

Brockie, Lieut., 261, 270 

Brodrick, Mr., 367 

Buller, General Sir Redvers, 
cable on relieving of Lady- 
smith, 302, 303, 

sketch of, 234, 235 

229-238, 302, 307, 314, 3 2 3, 


Burgener, Mr., 289, 296 
Burke, Mr., 2, 3 
Butterflies, 28 
Byng, Lord, 305, 316 

Cambon, Paul, 90 

Campos, Marshal Martinez, 76, 


Cartwright, Mr., 369^ 
Cassel, Sir Ernest, 233, 361 
Cecil, Lord Hugh, 200-202 .. 
Chamberlain, Sir Austen, 33-35 
Chamberlain, Joseph, at Old- 
ham, 357 

, lot , 

* > " 


Churchill, Lady Randolph, 
equips hospital ship for 
Boer War, 320 

4, 5,^ 62, 99 

Churchill, Lord Randolph, 
death, 62 

30-333 45-49 

Churchill, Winston, American 
author, 217-219 

Churchill, Winston Spencer, ac 
cident when 1 8, 29, 30 

and Mrs. Ormiston Chant, 

S 3 ^ cc 

as writer of fiction, 154 

at Cuba, 74-88 

at Harrow, 15-24 

at Hounslow, 89-100 

at Pretoria, 349 

at Sandhurst, 43-60 

back to the Army, 298-306 

Balfour's remark, 226 

Boer War experiences, 229, 


escape from the Boers, 


escape, newspaper crit 
icisms, 298-302 

childhood, 1-14 

criticises Army Chaplain's 

sermon, 332 

cycles through Johannes- 

. bur g> 347. 

difficulty with Lord Kitchen 

er, 161-170 

dislocates shoulder, 101 

education at Bangalore, 109- 


feels the desire for learning, 


first speech at a gathering of 

the Primrose League at 
Bath, 204, 205 

first speech in the House of 

* Commons, 364 

gazetted to the Fourth Hus 

sars, 6 1 

gives flesh to be grafted, 197 

Churchill, Winston Spencer, his 
first book, 153 

in a cavalry charge, 189-194 

in India, 101-108 

interview with Lord Salis 

bury, 164 

leaves the Army, 197-216 

lecturing tours, 359-361 

letter to Mr. Winston 

Churchill, 217, 218 

Malakand Field Force, 122- 

I 33 

Mamund Valley expedition, 


Oldham, contest at, 219- 

227, 353-358 

ordered to Soudan, 167 

prisoner with the Boers, 


receives commission in South 

African Light Horse, 305 

school days, 8-14 

speeches in House, 364, 365, 


surrenders to General Botha, 


telegram on Boer War, 329- 


thoughts of going to Oxford, 


Tirah Expedition, 148-160 

and passim 

Clemens, S. L., Mark Twain, 

Clerical Tithes Bill, 222, 224, 

225, 226 

Clery, Sir Francis, 302 
Colville, General, 365 
Commons, House of, 362-370 
Connaught, Duke of, 61 
Crawford, Lord, 200 
Crisp, C. B., 356 
Cromer, Lord, 214, 215 
Cuba, 74-88 
Cullinan Diamond, 254 
Curzon, Lord, 72 



D'Abernon, Lord, description 
of Lady Churchill, 4, 5 

Deane, Major, 131 

De Graaf, Mr., 255 

De Lisle, Captain, 156 

Dewsnap, Mr., 284, 354 

Dufferin, Lord, 361 

Durham Light Infantry as polo 
players, 156 

Edward VII, letter to Mr. 
Churchill on the Malakand 
Field Force, 155 

93, 94,^33, . 
Election, Khaki, 353-361 
Elgin, Lord, 152 
Emmott, Mr., 223, 356, 357 
Empire Theatre, 51, 56, 57^ 
Entertainments Protection 

League, 52-56 
Eurydice, wreck of, 6 
Everest, Mrs.- (Mr. Churchill's 

nurse), death, 72 

2,3, 5, 6,9, 12, 13,32, HI 

Fincastle, Lord, 130, 153, 155 
Finn, Major, 182, 185 
Fiscal policy, 370 
Fitzroy-Stewart, 203, 204 
Fortnightly Review, 159 
Fourth Hussars, 61-73 
Frankland, Lieut., 260 
French, Earl, unfriendly to Mr. 
Churchill, 341-342 

242, 336 

Garstin, 214 

George, David Lloyd, 363, 364, 


Gerard, Lord, 232, 233 

Girouard, 214 

Gladstone, William Ewart, trib 
ute on Austen Chamber^ 
Iain's maiden speech, 34 

7,8,23, 33, 34 
Gleaesk, Lord, 304 
Gordon, Genecsal^ 2115 

Grenfell, Lieut., 168 

Haig, Earl, 66, 242 

Haldane, Sir J. Aylmer L., 157- 

159, 243, 244, 245, 249, 

250, 252, 260, 270, 300 
Hamilton, Sir Ian, 121, 150, 

156, 157, 242, 343 
Harrow, 15-24 
Havana, 76 
Hoare, Reginald, 209 
Hounslow, 89-100 
House of Commons, 362-370 
Howard, John, Manager of the 

Transvaal Collieries, 283- 


India, 101-108 

Indian servants, 103 

Irish, 7 

Irvingite religion, 368-369 

James, Captain, 28, 29, 35 

Jameson, Sir L. S., 97-98 
effreys, Colonel, 50 
Jeffreys, General, 136 
Jeune, Sir Francis, 166 
Jeune, Lady, 166, 227 
Johannesburg, 343-352 
Joubert, General, 268, 299-300 

Khaki Election, 353~36i 
Kitchener, Lord, Churchill's 

difficulty with, 161-170 
228, 303 

Labouchere, Mr., 228 
Ladysmith, relief of, 31^-326 
Latin language, observations 

on, 21, 22,,23 
Lawrence^ General, 242 
Liberals' intellectual stature, 

Lloyd, Captain Hardress, 209 




Macaulay, Lord, 211 
Macdonald, General Sir Hector, 

McDonnell, Sir Schomberg, 163, 


McNeill, Angus, 339-34 
Mahommedans, 148 
Malakand Field Force, 122-123 
Malakand Field Force, 154, 163 
Malcolm, Ian, 200 
Mamund Valley, I34 -I 47 
Marlborough, Duke of, 343, 349 
Martin, Colonel, 175 
Mathematics, 25-27 
Mawdsley, James, 222-225, 356 
Mayo, C. H. P., 25 
Middleton, Mr., Conservative 

Party Manager, 203 
Milbanke, Jack, 39-41 
Milner, Lord, 330, 353 
Molyneux, Dick, 197 
Morley, Lord, 99, 228 
Mysore, 151 

Nicholson, General, 159 

Gates, Titus, 241 

O'Donnell, Juan, 78 

Oldham contested, 220-228, 


Omdurman, 171-181 
Orange Free State, 3*7-34^ 
Oxford and Asquith, Lord, 22, 


Parkin, Mr., 42 

Pathans, 130, 134, 135 

Percy, Lord, 200, 201 

Polo, 106-108, 118-120, 156, 

208, 209 

Portarlington, Lord, 2 
Pretoria, 343-35* 
Punjaubis, 148 

Quotations, books of, 115 

Repington, Colonel, 323 
Rest, thoughts on, 81 
Rhodes, Cecil J., 97> 9 
Ripon, Lord, 215 
River War, 199,211,228 
Roberts, Earl, aloofness to Mr. 

Churchill, 334 
letter to Lady Churchill, 152 

3 2 > 33> 3 2 7> 33 2 > 34& 
Roberts, Trooper, 341 (note) 
Rosebery, Lord, 48, 71 
Runciman, Mr., 223, 356, 358 
Rundle, Sir Leslie, 336-337 

St. Helier, Lady. See Jeune, 

Salisbury, Lord, asks Mr. 

Churchill to visit him, 163, 


on Sir Redvers Buller, 234 

Sandhurst, Lord, 103, 104 
Sandhurst, 42-60 
Savory, Albert, 209-211 
Sawola, 154 

Scott, C. P., 228 
Scott, Sir Percy, 320 
Singh, Sir Pertab, 207 
Skrme, H. D., 204, 205 
Slatin Pasha, 214 
Sleep, thoughts on, 81 
Smuts, General, 254, 255 
Somervell, Mr., 16, 17 
South Africa, 94. See also Boer 

South African Light Horse, 305- 

3 6 

Spion Kop, 307-316 
Stafford House, 90 
Steevens, G. W., 213, 214 
Symonds, General Penn, 239 

Tariffs, 370 

Tay Bridge disaster, 7 

Thorney croft, General, 311, 


Tiedemann, Baron von, 178 



Tirah Expedition, 148-160 
'Twain, Mark/ 360 
Tweedmouth, Lord, 33 

Unpunctuality, 93 

Valdez, General, 78, 79 

TTT u t < _A^ 

War, thoughts on, 64-67, 

o o o 

Warren, Sir Charles, 312, 3^3 
Welldon Dr., .5, ^ , ^ 

Whisky, 126, 127 
White, Sir George, Balfour's 
remark, 240 

White, Sir George, 152, 153, 
J57> 2 3*> 2 39> 240, 302, 303 

William, German Emperor, 
message to Queen Victoria 
on Boer War, 303 

97, 98 

Willoughby, Sir John, 99 

Wimborne, Lady, 29 

Wingate, Sir Reginald, 177, 178, 

Wnl ^ X c- tipnrv 76 

^^ Lo?^! 359 
Wood Sir Evelyn, 70, 71, 166, 
P 1 ,. 167 
Wyndham, George, 232